Galaxy located 13.4 billion light years away found by Leiden astronomers

Galaxy discovered 13.4 billion light years away (Photo: Leiden University). (Galaxy discovered 13.4 billion light years away (Photo: Leiden University))

An international team of astronomers, including three Leiden scientists, discovered a galaxy that is 13.4 billion light years away. That means that this galaxy came into existence about 400 million years after the Big Bang, breaking the previous oldest galaxy record with 150 million years, the Leiden University announced. 

This newly discovered galaxy is exceptionally bright, which is why the astronomers could see it at such a distance. It is located in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major.

"The system already surfaced in recordings with the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer telescope. We were amazed at its enormous brightness and distance, and initially did not believe it, because such bright galaxies are not supposed to exist at that distance. However, careful measurements with the Hubble showed us that the galaxy was further than we thought", Marijn Franx, professor of astronomy at Leiden University explained. "All repeated checks confirms the earlier results We therefore did not only set a distance record, but found an elephant in the extremely young universe, where we expected to find a mouse. But frankly we do not understand how this elephant could come into existence that early."

The galaxy was also observed at infrared wavelengths with the smaller Spitzer Space Telescope. The fact that this small telescope, only 85 cm in diameter, was able to see it shows that the galaxy already has about a billion stars.

This discovery can give new insights into the evolution of the very early universe and the formation history of galaxies like our own Milky Way.