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The Farthest Galaxy

Scientists this past week, using a collaboration of natural and artificial telescopes, discovered the farthest known galaxy on record: MACS0647-JD.

The galaxy is approximately 13.3 billion light years away, which also makes it one of the oldest known galaxies in the universe.

Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institude in Baltimore, M.D. found the galaxy with assistance from the Hubble and Spitzer telescopes, along with utilizing naturally occurring cosmic “lenses”.

The new found galaxy is much smaller than the Milky Way, at less than 600 light-years wide. Astronomers believe MACS0637-JD will one day collide with another galaxy and become a larger whole. As our telescopic abilities evolve alongside technology, we will see even more distant planets and galaxies in the near future.

Before MACS0647-JD, the farthest celestial object we’d discovered from Earth was SXDF-NB1006-2; a galaxy 12.9 billion light years away. The Cluster Lensing And Supernova Survey with Hubble(CLASH) made the most recent discovery.

Marc Postman, who leads the group, described the natural lens that made this finding possible. “This cluster does what no manmade telescope can do. Without the magnification, it would require a Herculean effort to observe this galaxy.”

The lens is a collection of cluster galaxies whose combined gravities warp space and time, which allows for the magnification of light passing through them. This is known as a “Gravitational Lens”.

Currently, the CLASH survey group is studying a cosmic lens of 25 large galaxy clusters using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys. These same instruments are responsible for the discovery of MACS0647-JD.

“This object may be one of many building blocks of a galaxy. Over the next 13 billion years, it may have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of merging events with other galaxies and galaxy fragments. “ said Dan Coe, the Space Telescope Science Institutes’s lead astronomer on the study of MACS0647-JD.

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