Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cosmic Log - Hubble spots farthest galaxy ... again

"By Alan Boyle

The Hubble Space Telescope has outdone itself by catching sight of what may be the most distant galaxy ever seen, lying about 13.2 billion light-years from Earth. If the observations hold up, they would one-up another galaxy that made headlines last October when researchers said it was 13.1 billion light-years away.

The newfound galaxy candidate, discussed in this week's issue of the journal Nature, is known by the unwieldy name UDFj-39546284. (Let's call it UDFj for short.) Like the earlier candidate for the farthest galaxy, UDFy-38135539, it was detected amid other faint galaxies in a snapshot of the sky known as the Hubble Ultra Deep Field.

This particular candidate was singled out during an exhaustive search of the deep-field data in infrared wavelengths, which was gathered during 87 hours of observations by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 in 2009 and 2010. Based on the characteristic shift in UDFj's light spectrum, astronomers determined that the galaxy dated back to a time just 480 million years after the big bang.

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