Today, NASA announced that it had discovered what could be the most distant object ever viewed by man. The object, which has not officially been named a galaxy, is more than 13.2 billion light years away. That’s 150 million light years further than the previous most distant object.
To put that in perspective: The universe itself is estimated to be just 13.7 billion years old. That means astronomers are viewing this newly discovered object as it existed just 480 million years after the theoretical Big Bang.
“These observations provide us with our best insights yet into the earlier primeval objects that have yet to be found,” said Rychard Bouwens of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. NASA suspects the object to be a compact cluster of blue stars that forms a galaxy estimated to be 1/100th the size of our own Milky Way.
Astronomers used the Hubble space telescope to discover the object, pushing NASA’s aging golden child to limits that were never imagined when Hubble was launched more than two decades ago. “We could only dream when we launched Hubble more than 20 years ago that it would have the ability to make these types of groundbreaking discoveries and rewrite textbooks,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
This announcement comes during turbulent times for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The final mission of the space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to take place in late June of this year, and after that the fleet will be retired.
The future of the Administration is still unclear.
Image Source: NASA Goddard Photo and Video
I hope we can keep the “little telescope that could” Hubble up and running once we retire our space shuttle fleet this year. Depending on private enterprise to continue space exploration (and keep Hubble functional) makes about as much sense as privatizing the Navy. Sure would like to know more about life on that distant galaxy and its inhabitants…
Great to hear Hubble is still breaking some ground after all these years. Its especially nice for those of us who remember all the drama and problems with the installation and production. Great read!