Astronomers managed to capture new photos of a distant galaxy which revealed its newborn stars thanks to the natural magnification of the Hubble Space Telescope. The studied galaxy is one of the oldest known ones, having formed ‘just’ 2.7 billion years following the Big Bang.
Specialists point out that although Hubble is a powerful telescope, it still has some limitations when it comes to casting its eye towards more distant galaxies. So scientists took advantage of a naturally occurring event, gravitational lensing, to magnify its powers.
This occurs as light from such distant galaxies passes through massive objects and gets bent and distorted by their gravity into becoming an arc. Thanks to it, the space telescope was able to capture images some ten times sharper than usual.
In the case of the distant galaxy, the resulting photo was 30 times sharper than most of the available images of it.
This Old and Distant Galaxy Presents New Stars
The galaxy cluster known as SDSS J1110+6459 is situated some 6 billion light-years away from our planet. It is believed to contain hundreds of galaxies, and to be followed by the even more distant galaxy titled SGAS J111020.0+645950.8.
This is located at around 11 billion light-years away from our Sun, and astronomers state that it must have appeared about 11 billion years ago. Its age deems it as being one of the oldest known galaxies, as it could have formed less than 3 billion years following the Big Bang.
Held as the event that kickstarted the Universe into being, the Big Bang was calculated to have taken place some 13.8 billion years ago.
The team of scientists analyzing its newest pictures first had to remove the gravitational lensing distortions through some a specially created software. Still, this helped reveal “two dozen clumps of newborn stars”. Each such formation could be spanning over 200 to 300 light years.
In turn, this seems to indicate that, in the early days of the Universe, star forming regions were significantly larger, and could have reached 3,000 light years or even more in size.
“When we saw the reconstructed image we said, ‘Wow, it looks like fireworks are going off everywhere,’” stated Jane Rigby, part of the study team and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
A research paper is available in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, and two additional reports were released in The Astrophysical Journal.
Image Source: JPL/NASA
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