Galaxy from universe's early period seen

Dec. 21, 2011 at 5:53 PM
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RIVERSIDE, Calif., Dec. 21 (UPI) -- A team of international astronomers, including U.S. researchers, says it's discovered a distant galaxy from nearly the beginning of time itself.

University of California, Riverside, scientists say the image of galaxy GN-108036 has taken 12.9 billion years to reach us, so we're seeing it as it existed a mere 750 million years after our universe was created 13.7 billion years ago in the Big Bang.

Astronomer Bahram Mobasher and his graduate student Hooshang Nayyeri say the distant galaxy is churning out stars at a shockingly high rate, a university release reported Wednesday.

Previous surveys had not found galaxies this bright so early in the history of the universe, scientists said, so GN-108036 may be a special, rare object observed during an extreme burst of star formation.

Astronomers said they were surprised to see such a rate of star formation in a galaxy is so small and from such an early cosmic era.

Galaxies forming in the first few hundreds of millions of years after the Big Bang were much smaller than they are today, having yet to bulk up in mass, they said.

"The high rate of star formation found for GN-108036 implies that it was rapidly building up its mass some 750 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was only about five percent of its present age," Mobasher said.

"This was therefore a likely ancestor of massive and evolved galaxies seen today."

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