Both the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes located the galaxy by using what is known as "gravitational lensing." Gravitational lensing
refers to using a distant galaxy as a "zoom lens" to magnify light. This allows space telescopes such as Hubble and Sprizer to see light that is weaker than that of a candle on the Moon. Such a minute amount of light would go undetected by telescopes on Earth.
Baltimore Space Telescope Institute's Marc Postman told US News
"This [magnification galaxy] does what no man made telescope can do. Without the magnification, it would require a Herculean effort to observe this galaxy."
The newly found galaxy, which lies 13.3 billion light years away from earth, has been named MACS0647-JD. It is considered to be a very young galaxy, created approximately 420 million years after the big bang. According to NASA,
it is also a very small galaxy, measuring only a fraction of the size of the Milky Way.
A NASA press release
"Based on observations of somewhat closer galaxies, astronomers estimate that a typical galaxy of a similar age should be about 2,000 light-years wide. For comparison, the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy companion to the Milky Way, is 14,000 light-years wide. Our Milky Way is 150,000 light-years across."
The CLASH (Cluster Lensing And Supernova Survey with Hubble) team, which is the team that discovered the distant galaxy, identified several images of eight galaxies lensed by the galaxy cluster. Using those positions, the team produced a map of the cluster's mass. The cluster is believed to be primarily made up of dark matter
. The CLASH team's analysis was able to produce three lensed images of MACS0647-JD.
Dan Coe, who is also with the Baltimore Space Telescope Institute, said:
"It's like a big puzzle. We have to arrange the mass in the cluster so that it deflects the light of each galaxy to the positions observed."