Astronomy Now Online

VLT finds most distant known galaxy
Posted: March 1, 2004

This is an ISAAC image in the near-infrared of the core of the lensing cluster Abell 1835 (upper) with the location of the galaxy Abell 1835 IR1916 (white circle). The thumbnail images at the bottom show the images of the remote galaxy in the visible R-band (HST-WPC image) and in the J-, H-, and K-bands. The fact that the galaxy is not detected in the visible image but present in the others — and more so in the H-band — is an indication that this galaxy has a redshift around 10.
Image credit: ESO
Using the ISAAC near-infrared instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope, and the magnification effect of a gravitational lens, a team of French and Swiss astronomers has found several faint galaxies believed to be the most remote known.

Further spectroscopic studies of one of these candidates has provided a strong case for what is now the new record holder — and by far — of the most distant galaxy known in the Universe.

Named Abell 1835 IR1916, the newly discovered galaxy has a redshift of 10 and is located about 13,230 million light-years away. It is therefore seen at a time when the Universe was merely 470 million years young, that is, barely 3 percent of its current age.

This primeval galaxy appears to be ten thousand times less massive than our Galaxy, the Milky Way. It might well be among the first class of objects which put an end to the Dark Ages of the Universe.

This remarkable discovery illustrates the potential of large ground-based telescopes in the near-infrared domain for the exploration of the very early Universe.