A 13 billion years old galaxy discovered by combining the power of Hubble and Spitzer telescopes seems to be the faintest object ever spotted in the Universe. The galaxy is also one of the oldest ever discovered, being formed only 400 million years after the big bang.
The team of astronomers who discovered the object has nicknamed it Tayna, a word that means ‘first born’ in Aymara language, spoken in some regions of South America.
Astronomers have detected 22 other very old and very distant galaxies using Hubble and Spitzer before but this is smaller, fainter, older and more far away than anything ever seen before. Scientists believe that objects like this could provide new information about the formation and the evolution of the first galaxies.
The size of Tayna is about the same as the LMC – Large Magellanic Cloud, a very small satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. Yet, it is producing new stars at a record speed, about ten fast faster than LMC does. This makes scientists believe that Tayna galaxy is expanding and one day could become a full-size galaxy.
Hubble detected a massive cluster of galaxies as part of the Frontier Fields program. The cluster, MACS0416.1-2403, is located at the great distance of 4 billion light-years from Earth. It is so gigantic that it weighs more than a million billion suns.
This cluster acts like a natural ‘magnifying glass’, being able to magnify the light of objects behind it, even at great distance. To put it simple, it acts like a 20X zoom lens, increasing the visibility of light objects behind it by almost 20 times. This is a phenomenon that Albert Einstein has explained as a part of the General Theory of Relativity, calling it ‘gravitational lensing’.
To estimate the distance between Earth and Tayna, astronomers built a color profile using data from both Hubble and Spitzer. The light coming from distant galaxies appears to be reddened and stretched because of the Universe’s expansion and of the cool intergalactic hydrogen. Since the new stars are blue-white, the light has to be shifted into infrared wavelengths, which are measured by Hubble and Spitzer.
Scientists claim that the future James Webber Telescope will be able to find more galaxies from the beginning of the Universe, shortly after the big bang and will reveal new data about the way in which everything we know today has come to life.
Image source: NASA