Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Monday, June 7, 1999 Published at 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK


Most distant galaxy found

Radio wave contours make a double pattern

By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse

Astronomers have discovered the most distant galaxy yet found. It was detected because it gives off radio waves.

Hidden in the galaxy is thought to be the most-distant black hole discovered so far. Black holes are massive objects that only flare with light when they engulf nearby stars.

The discovery was made by astrophysicist Wil van Breugel of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in the US.

Far, far away

The newly-discovered radio galaxy, designated TN J0924-2201, was found toward the southern constellation of Hydra at a distance of nearly 11 billion light years from Earth.

The radio waves emitted by radio galaxies are thought to be powered by beams of extremely hot gas coming from super-massive black holes buried at their cores.

The nearest and first-known radio galaxy, Cygnus A, was discovered nearly 50 years ago. The newly-discovered radio galaxy is 200 times more distant, 30 times more luminous, and was born when the Universe was still very young.

New tools

The discovery of TN J0924-2201 was made possible by using several newly-available tools to astronomers, including deep radio surveys, large optical telescopes and infrared detectors, van Breugel said.

"The new, large optical telescopes allow astronomers for the first time to begin exploring the 'Dark Ages', when the Universe was very young and the first stars and black holes were born. Radio galaxies may lead the way."

The image of the radio galaxy was obtained with the Keck Observatories twin giant telescopes situated on the Mauna Kea extinct volcano in Hawaii. Each telescope has a mirror 10 m (400 inches) across.

The galaxy was young and faint and is near the limits of detectability.

It was still in the process of forming through the merging of smaller galaxies. As such it was a chaotic collection of hot young stars.

Over billions of years it will have settled down and may have evolved into a galaxy like our own Milky way.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Sci/Tech Contents

Relevant Stories

26 May 99 | Sci/Tech
Universe is 12 billion years old

15 Apr 99 | Sci/Tech
Hubble spies most distant object

14 Apr 99 | Sci/Tech
New black holes discovered

03 Mar 99 | Sci/Tech
Hubble reveals stellar traffic jam

18 Sep 98 | Sci/Tech
Peering into a black hole

08 Sep 98 | Sci/Tech
Massive black hole at galaxy's core

Internet Links

What are Black Holes?

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

World's smallest transistor

Scientists join forces to study Arctic ozone

Mathematicians crack big puzzle

From Business
The growing threat of internet fraud

Who watches the pilots?

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer