Astronomers this week revealed that yet another galaxy from the very early universe has been spotted.
The galaxy, dubbed Abell2744_Y1, is estimated to have existed just 650 million years after the big bang, which took place 13.8 billion years ago. The object was spotted during a survey of the Abell 2744 galaxy cluster using the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. The new observations are set to be published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics Letters.
“We expected to find very distant galaxies close to the cluster core, where the light amplification is maximum," said Nicolas Laporte, lead author on the paper and a post-doctoral student at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) in Spain. "However, this galaxy is very close to the edge of the Hubble image where the light is not strongly amplified. We are really lucky that we could find it in the small field of view of Hubble."
Like other ancient galaxies, Abell2744_Y1 is much smaller than modern galaxies. Astronomers estimate the galaxy's size at around 30 times smaller than our Milky Way galaxy. However, star formation within Abell2744_Y1 is much higher than in more established galaxies, with estimates of around 10 times the star production of the Milky Way.
These new findings are some of the first to come out of the Hubble Frontier Fields project. The project is set to combine the powers of the Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra space telescope over five years as they survey galaxy clusters. Such clusters function as gravitational lenses that amplify light around them, allowing astronomers to observe even more distant objects.
Image via NASA/ESA/J. Lotz/M. Mountain/A. Koekemoer/Nicolas Laporte et al./IAC