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Distant galaxy said the most prolific star 'factory' in the universe

April 17, 2013 at 3:59 PM   |   Comments

ITHACA, N.Y., April 17 (UPI) -- U.S. astronomers say they've observed the most prolific star factory in the universe, a massive galaxy with a huge reservoir of gas for forming new stars.

The galaxy is so distant we are seeing it as it was when the universe was only 6 percent of its current age, astronomers affiliated with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory reported Wednesday.

"This is the most detailed look into the physical properties of such a distant galaxy ever made," Dominik Riechers of Cornell University said. "Getting detailed information on galaxies like this is vitally important to understanding how galaxies, as well as groups and clusters of galaxies, formed in the early Universe."

Some 12.8 billion light-years from Earth, the galaxy dubbed HFSL3 was producing the equivalent of nearly 3,000 Suns per year, a rate more than 2,000 times that of our own Milky Way, in the early period of the universe, researchers said.

"This galaxy is proof that very intense bursts of star formation existed only 880 million years after the Big Bang," Riechers said. "We've gotten a valuable look at a very important epoch in the development of the first galaxies."

The universe currently is about 13.7 billion years old.

The research team, using a world-wide collection of telescopes to observe HFSL3, included astronomers from Europe, Japan and the United States.

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