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Scientists discover the most distant galaxy yet

Galaxy z8_GND_5296 — the most distant discovered to date — formed about 700 million years ago, when the universe was just 5 percent of its current age.

Most distant galaxy 2013 10 23Enlarge
An artist's rendition of the newly discovered most distant galaxy z8_GND_5296. (V. Tilvi, Texas A&M University; S.L. Finkelstein, University of Texas at Austin; C. Papovich, Texas A&M University; CANDELS Team and Hubble Space Telescope/NASA/Courtesy)

The new galaxy discovered by an international team of astronomers is not just far, far away — it's the most distant found yet.

The galaxy, called z8_GND_5296, is about 30 million light years from Earth and formed an estimated 700 million years ago — a time when the universe was just 5 percent of its current age, according to the research published in the journal Nature

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Scientists hope it can help shed more light on the period that immediately followed the Big Bang.

The colossal event is credited with creating the universe about 13.8 billion years ago.

A team of scientists from the University of California at Riverside, University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University and the National Optical Astronomy Observatories discovered the galaxy after sorting through more than 100,000 images from the Hubble Space Telescope.

They looked for images of galaxies that appeared red to the human eye.

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Because the universe is expanding and everything is moving away from us, light waves are stretched, making objects look redder than they actually are.

So, the older the galaxy, the more red it appears.

Galaxy z8_GND_5296 has what's known as a "redshift" of 7.51, beating the previous record-holder with a redshift of 7.21.

Scientists are also excited by how quickly it's producing stars.

While the Milky Way creates about one or two Sun-like stars every year or so, this newly discovered galaxy forms around 300 a year and shows no signs of slowing down.

"This is just an absolutely exciting time for doing this type of research," UC Riverside's Bahram Mobasher told CBS News, "because the Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck telescope, they compliment each other and pave the way for finding more and more of these distant galaxies. By looking, we essentially look back in time. The further away we look, further back in time we look.

"We are at the point where we can study and understand how galaxies form, and we're going to find more distant ones, absolutely."

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