Thursday, June 14, 2012


Hawaii observatory

The Hawaii Observatory on Mauna Kea. Photograph: Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis

A team of Japanese astronomers using telescopes on Hawaii say they have seen the oldest galaxy yet discovered.

  The team calculates that the galaxy is 12.91bn light years away, and their research will be published in the Astrophysical Journal. The scientists with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan used the Subaru and Keck telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea.

  A light year is the distance that light travels in a year, about 6 trillion miles (9.66 trillion kilometres). Seeing distant galaxies is in effect looking back in time.

  Richard Ellis of the California Institute of Technology, an influential expert in cosmology and galaxy formation, said the latest work was more convincing than some other claims of early galaxies.

  He said the Japanese claim was more "watertight," using methods that everyone can agree on. But he said it was not much of a change from a similar finding by the same team last year.

Here it is, such as it is.

"It's the most distant bullet-proof one that everybody believes," Ellis said.

  In 2010, a French team using Nasa's Hubble Space Telescope claimed to have discovered a galaxy 13.1bn light years away and last year a California team using Hubble said it had seen a galaxy 13.2bn light years away. Both Hubble teams published findings in the journal Nature.

Vija Celmins sketching “Reverse Galaxy.”  The truth in her work has always amazed me.

However, the two Hubble teams have yet to confirm their findings with other methods, said Ellis. A team of Arizona State University astronomers this month claimed to have found a galaxy 13bn light years away using a telescope in Chile.

  Current theory holds that the universe was born of an explosion, called the Big Bang, about 13.7bn years ago. Astronomers using the most powerful telescopes available are peering deeper and deeper into that dawn of the universe.

• This article was amended on 12 June 2012 to change references to "light years ago" to "light years away".

A “space painting” by the great Chilean Surrealist painter, Matta.  I have always believed space looks like this.

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