Astronomers observe 'furthest ever object'
Published 17/11/2012 | 05:00
A fuzzy cluster of stars 13.3 billion light years away is believed to be the most distant object ever observed.
Light from the tiny embryonic galaxy began its journey to Earth just 420 million years after the Big Bang that created the universe, which is now 13.7 billion years old.
Scientists think the object, code-named MACSO647-JD, could be one of the building blocks of the early cosmos.
It was imaged with the help of a natural "zoom lens" more powerful than any man-made telescope.
Gravity from a huge cluster of galaxies between the Earth and MACSO647-JD bent light rays from the object in a way that massively magnified its image.
The "gravitational lensing" effect allowed astronomers to photograph the galaxy using the Hubble Space Telescope.
Marc Postman, from the Space Telescope Science Institute in the US, who led the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (Clash) team, said: "Without the magnification, it would require a Herculean effort to observe this galaxy."
In April, Clash astronomers announced the discovery of a galaxy that existed when the universe was about 490 million years old, making it more remote than anything seen before.
The new galaxy is 70 million years older than this object.