A team of astronomers, led by James Rhoads, Sangeeta Malhotra, and Pascale Hibon of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU, identified the remote galaxy after scanning a moon-sized patch of sky with the IMACS instrument on the Magellan Telescopes at the Carnegie Institution's Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.
The observational data reveal a faint infant galaxy, located 13 billion light-years away. "This galaxy is being observed at a young age. We are seeing it as it was in the very distant past, when the universe was a mere 800 million years old," says Rhoads, an associate professor in the school. "This image is like a baby picture of this galaxy, taken when the universe was only 5 percent of its current age. Studying these very early galaxies is important because it helps us understand how galaxies form and grow."
The galaxy, designated LAEJ095950.99+021219.1, was first spotted in summer 2011. The find is a rare example of a galaxy from that early epoch, and will help astronomers make progress in understanding the process of galaxy formation. The find was enabled by the combination of the Magellan telescopes' tremendous light gathering capability and exquisite image quality, thanks to the mirrors built in Arizona's Steward Observatory; and by the unique ability of the IMACS instrument to obtain either images or spectra across a very wide field of view. The research, published in the June 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters, was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF).