Astronomers peered into the vast expanse and spotted what they consider to be the longest (and oldest) galaxy ever observed.
Scientists have discovered that the galaxy GN-z11 does not have a flashy name, but it seems to be the most distant and oldest galaxy ever discovered. Astronomers led by Nobunari Kashikawa, a professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Tokyo, have embarked on a mission to find the most distant observable galaxy in the universe, to learn more about how it formed and when.
“From previous studies, the GN-z11 galaxy appears to be the furthest we can detect, with 13.4 billion light-years or 134 non-million kilometers (that’s 134 followed by 30 zeros),” Kashikawa it is stated in the statement. “But measuring and checking such a distance is not an easy task.”
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To determine how far GN-z11 is from us here on planet Earth, Kashikawa’s team studied the redshift of the galaxy – how far its light stretched or shifted toward the red end of the spectrum. In general, the farther a space object is from us on Earth, the more red light will be shifted.
In addition, the team looked at the GN-z11 emission lines – observable chemical signatures in the light coming from space objects.
By carefully studying these signatures, the team was able to figure out how far the light coming from GN-z11 had to travel to reach us, giving them tools to estimate the total distance from Earth.
“We concentrated on ultraviolet light because that’s the area of the electromagnetic spectrum that we expected to find a red-shifted chemical signature,” Kashikawa said. “The Hubble Space Telescope has detected a signature multiple times in the GN-z11 spectrum.”
“However,” he added, “even Hubble can’t solve ultraviolet emission lines to the extent we needed to. So we turned to a more modern terrestrial spectrograph, an emission line measuring instrument called MOSFIRE, mounted on the Keck I telescope. Hawaii. “
Using MOSFIRE, the team was able to observe and study emission lines coming from the galaxy in detail. If other observations confirm the new discoveries, GN-z11 will officially rule as the most distant galaxy ever seen.
New study was published on 14 December in the journal Nature Astronomy.
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