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October 16, 2014 01:00 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2014-39

Hubble Finds Extremely Distant Galaxy through Cosmic Magnifying Glass

October 16, 2014: Peering through a giant cosmic magnifying glass, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has spotted one of the farthest, faintest, and smallest galaxies ever seen. The diminutive object is estimated to be more than 13 billion light-years away. This new detection is considered one of the most reliable distance measurements of a galaxy that existed in the early universe, said the Hubble researchers. Hubble detected the galaxy due to the lensing power of the mammoth galaxy cluster Abell 2744, nicknamed Pandora's Cluster. The cluster is so massive that its powerful gravity bends the light from galaxies far behind it, making the background objects appear larger and brighter in a phenomenon called gravitational lensing.

In this Hubble image, the cluster produced three magnified images of the background galaxy, marked by the small white boxes, labeled "a," "b," and "c." The arrows in the enlarged views point to the tiny galaxy far behind the cluster. Each magnified image makes the galaxy appear as much as 10 times larger and brighter than it would look without the intervening lens. The galaxy was detected as part of the Frontier Fields program, an ambitious three-year effort, begun in 2013, that teams Hubble with NASA's other Great Observatories — the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory — to probe the early universe by studying large galaxy clusters.

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Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Zitrin (California Institute of Technology), and J. Lotz, M. Mountain, A. Koekemoer, and the HFF Team (STScI)