London: Astronomers claim to have discovered what they believe is the most distant and ancient galaxy ever found.
The light of the galaxy discovered by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has travelled for 13.2 billion years to reach Hubble , which corresponds to a redshift around 10.
Called UDFj-39546284, this galaxy most likely contains blue stars that existed 480 million years after the Big Bang.
“We’re seeing huge changes in the rate of star birth that tell us that if we go a little further back in time we’re going to see even more dramatic changes,” said Garth Illingworth of the University of California at Santa Cruz.
The new find indicates that the rate at which galaxies were forming stars was increasing by a factor of ten over the 170 million years that elapsed between the era of this newly discovered candidate galaxy and that of the population of previously identified galaxies at a redshift around 8 (650 million years after the Big Bang).
“These observations provide us with our best insights yet into the likely nature of the earlier generation of primeval objects that we are yet to find,” added Rychard Bouwens of Leiden University in the Netherlands.
The object appears as a faint dot of starlight in the Hubble exposures, and although its individual stars can’t be resolved by Hubble, the evidence suggests that this is a compact galaxy of hot stars that first started to form over 100-200 million years earlier, from gas trapped in a pocket of dark matter.
The team has reported the find in the 27 January issue of Nature.