By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
Though light is the fastest thing known to man, it takes billions and billions of years for light in the deepest corners of space to reach Earth. Now, researchers have just discovered one of the oldest galaxies ever, using the Hubble Space Telescope. It may have formed shortly after the Big Bang – the theoretical event which gave birth to the universe itself. Scientists hope the ancient galaxy will share secrets about what the early universe looked like.
Scientists named the galaxy Abell2744_Y1, and it’s located approximately 13 billion lightyears from Earth, meaning its light took 13 billion years to reach our planet. Because of how long it takes for the light to reach us, the galaxy actually looks young from Earth, despite the fact Abell2744_Y1 actually formed just 650 million years after the Big Bang. That makes it one of the oldest galaxies ever!
What’s interesting is that Abell2744_Y1 is very different from galaxies around today. For example, even though it’s 20 times smaller than the Milky Way, it creates 10 more stars than our galaxy does. Additionally, it has a gravitational pull so large, it warms light around it and makes nearby objects appear brighter.
This discovery is part of a three year long project known as the Frontier Fields, which aims to find galaxies formed in the first billion years of the universe.
Image of Abell2744_Y1 courtesy of NASA/ESA/STScI/IAC.