Astronomers discover one of the oldest galaxies of all time

Photo Credit: NASA

Astronomers have detected the second most distant dusty, star-forming galaxy ever found in the universe — born 12.8 billion years ago.

The findings showed that the galaxy was born in the first one billion years after the Big Bang.

Being able to image an object born within the first billion years is remarkable, because the universe was too hot and too uniform to form anything for the first 400 million years, the researchers said.

“The Big Bang happened 13.7 billion years ago, and now we are seeing this galaxy from 12.8 billion years ago, so it was forming within the first billion years after the Big Bang,” said Min Yun, astrophysicist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, in the US.

“We always knew there were some out there that are enormously large and bright, but they are invisible in visible light spectrum because they are so obscured by the thick dust clouds that surround their young stars.”

“So our best guess is that the first stars and galaxies and black holes all formed within the first half a billion to one billion years. This new object is very close to being one of the first galaxies ever to form,” Yun said.

The new object, detailed in the journal Nature Astronomy, was detected using a Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT), jointly operated by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Astrofisica, Optica y Electronica, located on the summit of a 15,000-feet extinct volcano in Mexico.

It is the oldest object ever detected by the LMT and at present there is only one other, slightly older and more distant object like this known, the researchers noted.

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