Astronomers Spot Oldest Galaxy Yet

It's 13.3 billion years old, nearly as old as the universe
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2012 1:23 PM CST
Updated Nov 16, 2012 1:40 PM CST

(Newser) – Our universe is a mind-boggling 13.7 billion years old, and now astronomers say they have found a galaxy that has been around since the universe was a spry 420 million years old, reports LiveScience. Called MACS0647-JD, the 13.3-billion-year-old galaxy is tiny, cosmically speaking, just 600 light years wide (compared to, say, 150,000 light years for our Milky Way), and astronomers believe it is the most distant object seen in the universe.

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"This object may be one of many building blocks of a galaxy," says the lead scientist. "Over the next 13 billion years, it may have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of merging events with other galaxies and galaxy fragments." The discovery was made as part of a program that uses a cluster of galaxies so massive their gravity warps space-time to act as a natural lens and boost telescopes' power. MACS0647-JD was first spotted by the Hubble telescope, then confirmed by the Spitzer telescope, which can scan the heavens in infrared. The new galaxy takes the title of "most distant galaxy" away from the 12.91-billion-year-old galaxy sighted in June. (Read more astronomy stories.)

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