Magazine article USA TODAY

The Eyes of Texas Are upon a Distant Galaxy

Magazine article USA TODAY

The Eyes of Texas Are upon a Distant Galaxy

Article excerpt

Texas A&M University and the University of Texas may be football rivals, but the Lone Star State's two research giants have teamed up to detect the most distant spectroscopically confirmed galaxy ever found-one created within 700,000,000 years after the Big Bang.

"It's exciting to know we're the first people in the world to see this," marvals Vithal Tilvi, a Texas A&M postdoctoral research associate and coauthor of the paper describing the find. "It raises interesting questions about the origins and evolution of the universe."

The paper's lead author is Steven Finkelstein, assistant professor at the University of Texas and 2011 Hubble Fellow who previously was a postdoctoral research associate at Texas A&M under the mentorship of astrophysicist Casey Papovich, who is second author as well as current mentor to Tilvi.

The galaxy, known by its catalog name Z8-GND-5296, fascinated the researchers. Whereas our home, the Milky Way, creates about one or two sun-like stars every year or so, this newly discovered galaxy forms around 300 a year and was observed by the researchers as it was 13,000,000,000 years ago. That is the time it took for the galaxy's light to travel to Earth. A single light-year, which is the distance light travels in a year, is nearly six trillion miles. Because the universe has been expanding the whole time, the researchers estimate the galaxy's present distance to be roughly 30,000,000,000 light-years away.

"Because of its distance, we get a glimpse of conditions when the universe was only about 700,000,000 years old--only five percent of its current age of 13,800,000,000 years," explains Papovich, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and a member of the Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy. …

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