Hey! We Just Discovered The Oldest Galaxy In The Entire Universe
NASA – ESA – JPL-Caltech
That up there, that little yellow speck the white arrow is pointing to, might be one of the first galaxies ever formed. In the whole universe. Pretty word, no?
EGSY8p7 is estimated to be 13.2 billion years old. The current known age of the universe is 13.8 billion. So this guy was there almost at the beginning. It’s so far away, too, that we are just seeing it. Which is wild. From Space.com:
The newfound galaxy, known as EGSY8p7, lies about 13.2 billion light-years from Earth — meaning astronomers are now seeing the mass of stars as it existed just 600 million years or so after the Big Bang that created the universe.
Damn, son. It was spotted using an infrared spectrometer in Hawaii.
The discovery team [detected] EGSY8p7’s “Lyman-alpha emission line” — basically, hydrogen gas heated up by ultraviolet radiation streaming from the galaxy’s newborn stars.
Seeing a Lyman-alpha line at such a great distance came as a surprise to the researchers.
“We frequently see the Lyman-alpha emission line of hydrogen in nearby objects, as it is one of the most reliable tracers of star formation,” study lead author Adi Zitrin, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said in a statement. “However, as we penetrate deeper into the universe, and hence back to earlier times, the space between galaxies contains an increasing number of dark clouds of hydrogen, which absorb this signal.”
Further research into this thing could provide tremendous insight into the earliest years of the universe, because, you know, it was there at the start. Like asking a dude who showed up to a party at the beginning how the scene was before you arrived. If it was bumping or not. That all speculative space science is. Getting a feel for the party before you showed up.