Astronomers say they have discovered a hot, star-popping galaxy that is far, far away—farther than any previously detected, from a time when the universe was a mere toddler of about 400 million years old. By employing a different technique—one that has raised some skepticism—a team of astronomers exposed a time period they'd thought was impossible to observe with today's technology, the AP reports. They used the Hubble Space Telescope and found the light wave signature of an extremely bright galaxy 13.4 billion light-years away, according to a study published Thursday by Astrophysical Journal. It shatters old records for distance and time in a big way, and may remain the farthest that can be seen for years, until a new space telescope is launched, the team of astronomers said.
With that light signature, astronomers were able to produce a photo of this galaxy that's fuzzy and all-too deceptive in color. It appears darkish red and indistinct, when in reality it's so hot it is bright blue, but the light has traveled so long and far that it has shifted to the very end of the color spectrum, to dark red. And that fuzziness masks an incredible rate of star formation that's 10 times more frenetic than our Milky Way, said study co-author Gabriel Brammer, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute. "It really is star bursting," Brammer said. "We're getting closer and closer to when we think the first stars formed. ... There's not a lot of actual time between this galaxy and the Big Bang." Click for more, including why a competing astronomer has his doubts. (Read more discoveries stories.)