Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope and the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope have found the oldest galaxy in the Universe. Standing out because its unique colors, galaxy EGS-zs8-1 is located over 13 billion light years from Earth, which is the farthest distance between the Earth and every other galaxy currently located.
The Universe has been said to be around 13.8 billions years old; therefore, galaxy EGS-zs8-1 is a member of the first generations of galaxies to form in the Universe. Scientists stated that further observation of this galaxy could unearth more information of how the cosmos birthed heavy elements that help birth a diversity of organic life in the Universe. Pascal Oesch, scientist Yale, said EGS-zs8-1 probably is not the furthest galaxy, “But we cannot measure their exact distance yet.”
To calculate the distance between the Earth and distant galaxies, scientists observe how fast the objects are speeding away from Earth, considering the Universe is become larger and expanding. When objects move further away from Earth, the light that comes from them becomes shifted. The farther away an object is, the quicker it appears to move away from Earth. Therefore, by measuring the degree of redshift, scientists can tell the speed at which galaxies are traveling to know how many light-years away they are.
The light from the newly discovered galaxy has gone 13.1 billion light-years. Thus, EGS-zs8-1 was formed 13.1 billion years ago. During the first stages of the formation of the galaxy, the Universe was around 670 million years old, which is infancy in regards to entire 13.8 billion year lifetime of the Universe. According to Oesch, the first stars to be birthed into the Universe were around 300 million years following the Big Bang.
Scientists combined all research done at the Keck Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope and the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope to estimate that the stars in EGS-zs8-1 are, “between 100 [million] and 300 million years old.” Though, it is tough to measure the age of the new galaxy compared to others found in locations billions of light-years from Earth. However, the scientists deduced that EGS-zs8-1 is undoubtedly the oldest galaxy ever found.
The observations found in the study establishes that EGS-zs8-1 is creating stars 80 times faster than the Milky Way. As well, the expanding galaxy as already birthed over 15 percent of the entirety of the Milky Way.
The scientists stated that the unusual colors seen in EGS-zs8-1 and other old galaxies that have been observed have presented interesting factors regarding the stellar environment in the juvenile stages of the star. According to a statement from Oesch, the unique colors may have been caused by a quicker than normal formation, interacting with newly formed gases in the galaxy. Furthermore, Oesch said that more observations of the galaxy could show the origins of some of the heavy elements that were created in the early stages of the Universe.
Oesch explained that, “By looking at different galaxies as function of time,” it will be possible to reconstruct timeline for the creation of heavy chemical compounds that helped spawn life in the Universe. Moreover, the new findings of the oldest galaxy in the Universe show an evidence of how stellar bodies were coming together at distances very far away from Earth.
By Alex Lemieux
Photo by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics – Creativecommons Flickr License