More than a decade ago the Hubble Space Telescope snapped an image that has since been referred to as “the most important picture ever taken”. It’s real name is the Hubble Deep Field (you may want to watch this video before reading on). While the image may seem old in this fast moving world of technology, it’s not even an eye-blink when compared to it’s subject matter – the farthest astronomers have seen in the universe, and into the past.
The folks at the Max Planck Institute have been studying the image almost since it was taken in 1995. Mostly they have been focusing on the brightest galaxy in the picture, known by the catchy name of HDF850.1. That galaxy represents the furthest object, and consequently the oldest, ever seen. The fact is, HDF850.1 is 12.6 billion light years away, meaning that in the Hubble image we see the galaxy as it was 12.6 billion years ago, which is a mere 1.1 billion years after the universe began.
The galaxy, known as a starburst galaxy, is (or was) producing stars at the staggering rate of about a thousand suns per year. The Register points out that the Planck institute, “had to use IRAM interferometer, and the Jansky Very Large Array, a giant compound radio telescope in New Mexico, USA” to verify their findings. The official announcement of the discovery will be published in the next issues of Nature.
Photo Credit: M16 Eagle Nebula from Big Stock Photo