The Farthest Object in the Universe


Scientists at Caltech have confirmed the distance of the furthest galaxy known in the Universe as of today. The light from this very early celestial comes just 570 million years after the Big Bang. Keep in mind that the Universe is 13.82 billion years old. The previou record holder formed much later: 2.2 billion years after the Big Bang.

Astrophysicist Adi Zitrin led a groups of scientists in confirming the distance to EGSY-2008532660, as it has been unceremoniously called. Previously reported by Guido Roberts-Bersani at University College London, it was previously a mere candidate for a distant object.

Figure 1. An illustration of a Lyman Alpha (ultraviolet) emitting galaxy in the early Universe. Credit: M. Weiss.


Astronomers use light from objects to determine several of their characteristics: mass, chemical composition, rate of star formation, distance, among others. Young stars that reside in galaxies in the early universe emit a lot of ultraviolet light that is released into outer space and travels in all directions. Now, most telescope instruments do not work best with ultraviolet light. Fortunately for us, the universe is expanding in an accelerated manner and objects are receding from us. The farther away they are, the faster they move away from us, a phenomenon known as the Hubble Law.

Objects receding from us change how their energy arrives to us. Ambulances, for example, change their pitch when coming closer or away from us, something known as the Doppler effect. Galaxies moving away from us look redder (are red-shifted), therefore showing their original blueish ultraviolet light as reddish to us. Instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck Observatory in Hawaii are very sensitive in red. If we can detect this very peculiar UV-light signature from stars that make up early galaxies, we can determine how much —> Read More