NASA has found the faintest object ever seen in the early universe, a galaxy that existed around 400 million years after the big bang, 13.8 billion years ago.
Spotted using the combined power of NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, the galaxy isn’t the first they have detected but it represents a much smaller, fainter class of newly-forming galaxies that have been largely undetectable until now.
The find offers new insight into how the first galaxies were formed.
“Thanks to this detection, the team has been able to study for the first time the properties of extremely faint objects formed not long after the big bang,” said lead researcher Leopoldo Infante, an astronomer at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in a NASA statement.
The galaxy has been nicknamed ‘Tanya’, meaning ‘first-born’ in the Aymara, a language spoken in the Andes and Altipano regions of South America.
Similar in size to one of our Milky Way’s satellite galaxies, experts think that the newly-discovered object may be the the growing core of what will likely evolve into a full-sized galaxy.
Astronomers hope that the upcoming James Webb space telescope will enable them to see the embryonic stages of galaxy birth, shortly after the big bang.
Image credit: NASA, ESA, and L. Infante (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile)