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Saturday, 2 May, 1998, 02:19 GMT 03:19 UK
Remotest galaxy discovered
The twin Keck telescope (keck observatory)
The twin Keck telescopes (keck observatory)
Astronomers working with the world's largest optical telescope have discovered the furthest object ever found in space. Our science correspondent David Whitehouse reports.

The object found is a faint dwarf galaxy seen as it was when the universe was about 500 million years old, about five per cent of its current age.

Its feeble light was detected by the twin Keck telescopes situated on the top of a 14,000ft extinct volcano in Hawaii.

Keck's contro room (keck observatory)
Keck's control room (keck observatory)
Its 10-metre mirror can collect 17 times more light than can the Hubble Space Telescope.

Orbiting above the Earth's turbulent atmosphere means that Hubble has a clearer view of the cosmos, but the Keck telescopes can see further into space.

The new galaxy lies 12.2 billion light years from Earth. The images from the telescope show the light from the first stars that formed in the young galaxy.

A nearby galaxy observed by the Keck telescope
A nearby galaxy observed by the Keck telescope
Astronomers have been searching the sky for objects that were around when the universe was young but until now their telescopes were not large enough to collect enough of the weak light from such objects.

This young and faint galaxy, shining by the light of the first stars ever to form in the universe, will help astronomers understand how the cosmos has evolved since its birth in the 'big bang' some 15 billion years ago.

See also:

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Astronomical blasts from the past
01 Apr 98 | Sci/Tech
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24 Apr 98 | Sci/Tech
Hubble's birthday picture
02 May 98 | Sci/Tech
Pushing back the frontiers of space
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