Scientists say the galaxy formed less than 500 million years after the "Big Bang." (Photo : NASA)
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope have uncovered the youngest confirmed galaxy by observing a magnification of its image through a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. The study, which is set to be published in the September 20 issue of the scientific journal Nature, details that when the fabric of space is warped by gravity, light bends around certain objects in space, thereby determining what astronomers see from earth's observatories. Astronomer Wei Zheng and his team were lucky enough to leverage this natural occurrence to take note of a galaxy that was created less than 500 million years after the "Big Bang." Galaxy age is determined by distance from Earth.
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Scientists believe that the universe forming event occurred 13.7 billion years ago, spurring a proliferation of galaxies.
In an interview with Space.com, Astronomer Daniel Stark noted that "while caution should be exercised in the interpretation of a single object, the results presented in the Zheng paper point to significant star formation activity throughout this period."
"This provides us with a unique glimpse of star formation and galaxy growth in the period spanning 300 [million] to 500 million years after the Big Bang," he added
The study asserts that the galaxy is 150 million times the mass of the sun.
Zheng, the lead author of the study, explained that he and his his team feel "archaeologists with a pre-Neanderthal fossil in hand."
The study suggests that the newly discovered galaxy played a part in clearing out the early universe's "murky fog."
What's even more fascinating is that this discovery would never have been made if the perfect conditions for a gravitational lens hadn't placed the galaxy center stage for Earth's observatories to spot.
"Such a discovery would not have been possible if the object was un-lensed," Zheng said.