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article imageNASA discovers tiny galaxy some 13 billion lightyears from Earth

By Greta McClain     Oct 19, 2014 in Science
Pasadena - With the help of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered one of the farthest and smallest galaxies ever seen.
When searching distant space, NASA scientists typically use gravitational lensing, a way of bending light from the source being studied as it travels towards earth. The bending, also known as lensing, makes the object more visible. Although scientists may be able to see the object, it is still often times difficult to accurately determine the distance of the object from the earth if the object is extremely old. To solve this problem, NASA says its astronomers used reverse engineering with a traditional method of distance measurement to improve accuracy.
In a news release, NASA explains that by using the lensing power of the Abell 2744 galaxy cluster, also known as Pandora's Cluster, they focused the light travelling from the distant galaxy being studied. This made the light appear approximately 10 times brighter, allowing astronomers to not only see it, but capture three magnified images of the galaxy.
Images of  heic1423a
Images of heic1423a
NASA
Using the reversed engineer method, scientists looked at the color of the galaxy to determine the distance. According to Science Daily, an object's color is reddened by the expansion of the universe. This change in color is predictable and can be used by scientists to measure distance.
The color-analysis technique was combined with the multiple images captured by Hubble's gravitational lens. By studying the images, astronomers were able to measure the angular separation between the images. The larger the separation, the farther away the object is from Earth.
Adi Zitrin, leader of the study, explained the findings, saying:
"These measurements imply that, given the large angular separation between the three images of our background galaxy, the object must lie very far away. It also matches the distance estimate we calculated, based on the color-analysis technique. So we are about 95 percent confident that this object is at a remote distance."
Scientists estimate the galaxy, known as heic1423c, is more than 13 billion lightyears from earth. It is 500 times smaller than the Milky Way galaxy, measuring only 850 lightyears across and containing a mass of around 40 million suns. The Milky Way galaxy has a mass of a few hundred billion suns according to a Telegraph report.
When discussing the relatively minute size of the galaxy, Zitrin says:
"Galaxies such as this one are probably small clumps of matter that are starting to form stars and shine light, but they don't have a defined structure yet. Therefore, it's possible that we only see one bright clump magnified due to the lensing, and this is one possibility as to why it is smaller than typical field galaxies of that time."
More about NASA, Hubble space telescope, Hubble telescope, Galaxy, Outer space
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