NASA's Spitzer, Hubble Telescopes Discover Most Distant Galaxy Yet

Feb 10, 2014 09:51 AM EST | Matt Mercuro


NASA has confirmed its Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes spotted what could be one of the most distant galaxies ever.

The galaxy, known as Abell 2744 Y1, is 30 times smaller than the Milky Way, and produces approximately 10 times as many stars, according to a NASA press release.

The discovery was made thanks to efforts by the Frontier Fields program, which "is pushing the limits of how far back" we can see into the universe by accessing NASA's Great Observatories.

Hubble sees visible and short-wavelength infrared light, while Spitzer sees infrared light, and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory sees X-rays. Each telescope benefits from natural lenses, as they're able to observe clusters of galaxies, where gravity expands the light of each distant galaxy, according to the news release.

Click here to read the full European news release.

The frontier program will capture pictures of six galaxy clusters combined.

Hubble images of the region are used to see candidate distant galaxies, and then Spitzer is used to figure out if the galaxies are actually as far away as the appear, according to the news release. Information discovered by using Spitzer can also decide how many stars are actually in a galaxy.

Astronomers have confirmed that the Abell 2744 galaxy cluster has a redshift of 8, which is a "measure of the degree to which its light has been shifted to redder wavelengths due to the expansion of our universe," according to NASA.

The farthest known galaxy has a redshift of over 7. Potential galaxies have redshifts as high as 11.

"Just a handful of galaxies at these great distances are known," said Jason Surace, of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, according to the news release. "The Frontier Fields program is already working to find more of these distant, faint galaxies. This is a preview of what's to come."

The results were discovered by astronomers from the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias and La Laguna University.

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