NASA just captured a record-breaking photo of a galaxy that's far, far away
Astronomers just spotted the faintest galaxy ever recorded. It appeared just 400 million years after the Big Bang, or about 13.8 billion years ago.
The galaxy was nicknamed Tayna, which means "first born," since it's likely one of the first galaxies in the universe. (It took billions of years for the light to reach the Earth.)
The astronomers who found it caught only a glimpse of the faint, distant galaxy thanks to a cluster of larger, closer galaxies, which acted like a giant magnifying glass. The phenomenon is called "gravitational lensing," and it happens when particularly massive objects bend and magnify light.
The large cluster of galaxies magnified the light from Tayna and made it appear about 20 times brighter - bright enough for the Hubble Space Telescope to take a picture of it.
The image below shows gravitational lensing at work. Tayna is the pink blob in the inset of the main image:
While Tayna isn't the most distant galaxy we've ever spotted, it belongs to a fainter group of young galaxies that are nearly impossible to spot without lensing. Studying young galaxies is critical if we want to understand the early universe and how it formed.
The discovery has astronomers excited about the potential of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is slated to launch into orbit sometime in 2018.
A giant array of mirrors will allow JWST to see farther and clearer than any other space telescope before it. We'll be able to glimpse more of these young galaxies and learn more about how the universe formed.
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