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Telescopes Make Discovery of Farthest, Faintest Galaxy

Telescopes Make Discovery of Farthest, Faintest GalaxyTelescopes Make Discovery of Farthest, Faintest Galaxy

NASA says its Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes, working in cosmos-observing tandem, have spotted the magnified image of the faintest galaxy ever from the very early universe.

The object, from around 400 million years after the birth of the universe in the Big Bang, is an example of a small, faint class of newly-forming galaxies that have largely evaded detection until now, astronomers say.

The distant object has been nicknamed "Tayna," meaning "first-born" in the Aymara language of peoples in the Andes and Altiplano regions of South America. The dim object should offer new insights into the formation and evolution of the universe's earliest galaxies, astronomers say in their study appearing in the Astrophysical Journal.

"Thanks to this detection, the team has been able to study for the first time the properties of extremely faint objects formed not long after the Big Bang," says lead author and astronomer Leopoldo Infante from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

The discovery of more than 20 young galaxies, including Tayna, from ancient times and located at nearly the observable edge of the universe, represents a significant increase in the number of extremely distant galaxies discovered to date.

Tayna is making new stars at a rapid rate, the astronomers say, and could be the evolving core of what is likely to end up as a full-sized galaxy. The object is so distant and so faint, it was detectable only through a natural cosmic "magnifying glass," a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing.

A massive cluster of galaxies around four billion light-years from us, known as MACS0416.1-2043, is acting like a powerful lens to bend and magnify the lights of distant, faint objects far behind it, astronomers explain.