Hubble Telescope Measures Most Distant Galaxy Seen Yet

Posted on March 6, 2016

Galaxy GN-z11

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has shattered the cosmic distance record and measured the farthest galaxy ever seen in the universe. Galaxy GN-z11 is seen as it was 13.4 billion years in the past. This just 400 million years after the big bang. GN-z11 is 25 times smaller than the Milky Way and has about 1% of our galaxy's mass in stars.

The international team of astronomers included scientists from Yale University, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, and the University of California in Santa Cruz, California. The astronomers were led by principal investigator Pascal Oesch of Yale University.

Oesch says in a statement, "We've taken a major step back in time, beyond what we'd ever expected to be able to do with Hubble. We see GN-z11 at a time when the universe was only three percent of its current age."

The astronomers first estimated GN-z11's distance by determining its color through imaging with Hubble and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The then used Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 to precisely measure the distance to GN-z11 spectroscopically by splitting the light into its component colors.

Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University says in a statement, "This is an extraordinary accomplishment for Hubble. It managed to beat all the previous distance records held for years by much larger ground-based telescopes. This new record will likely stand until the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope."

The team's findings will appear in the March 8, 2016 edition of The Astrophysical Journal. A larger version of the above image can be found here.

Image: NASA, ESA, P. Oesch (Yale University), G. Brammer (STScI), P. van Dokkum (Yale University), and G. Illingworth (University of California, Santa Cruz)