Record-breaking galaxy

Looking ever deeper into space and farther back in time, astronomers have found a galaxy more distant than any other known in the universe. Using the large Subaru telescope atop Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, researchers recorded a galaxy as it appeared just 780 million years after the Big Bang. The universe is now 13.7 billion years old.

SO FAR AWAY. The most remote galaxy known (red) lies 12.88 billion light-years from Earth. Image depicts radiation emitted by hydrogen atoms. Subaru

For their study, Masanori Iye of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan in Tokyo and his colleagues used a filter that selects near-infrared light corresponding to radiation emitted by hydrogen atoms in distant galaxies. The distant galaxies emit this light at ultraviolet wavelengths, but the expansion of the universe shifts that radiation into longer, infrared wavelengths that Subaru can detect.

The team found 41,533 candidate galaxies and then used a spectrograph to confirm that one faint galaxy, now dubbed IOK-1, is extraordinarily remote, 12.88 billion light-years from Earth. That’s 60 million light-years farther away than the previous galactic distance holder, which astronomers had also found with Subaru. The team reported its findings in the Sept. 14 Nature.

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