The farthest and one of the very earliest galaxies ever seen in the universe appears as a faint red blob in this ultra-deep-field exposure taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. This is the deepest infrared image taken of the universe. Based on the object's color, astronomers believe it is 13.2 billion light-years away.
The most distant objects in the universe appear extremely red because their light is stretched to longer, redder wavelengths by the expansion of the universe. This object is at an extremely faint magnitude of 29, which is 500 million times fainter that the faintest stars seen by the human eye.
The dim object is a compact galaxy of blue stars that existed 480 million years after the Big Bang, only four percent of the universe's current age. It is tiny and considered a building block of today's giant galaxies. Over one hundred such mini-galaxies would be needed to make up our Milky Way galaxy.
Follow-up spectroscopic observations with the planned James Webb Space Telescope later in this decade will be needed to definitively confirm the object's distance.
The Hubble Ultra Deep Field infrared exposures were taken in 2009 and 2010, and required a total of 111 orbits or 8 days of observing. The new Wide Field Camera 3 has the sharpness and near-infrared light sensitivity that matches the Advanced Camera for Surveys' optical images and allows for such a faint object to be selected from the thousands of other galaxies in the incredibly deep images of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field.