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Hubble Spots Farthest Galaxy Yet, Smashes Cosmic Distance Record

by Calla Cofield, Space.com / / Source: Space.com

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The Hubble Space Telescope just calculated the distance to the most far-out galaxy ever measured, providing scientists with a look deep into the history of the universe.

The far-away galaxy, named GN-z11, existed a mere 400 million years after the Big Bang, or about 13.3 billion years ago. Because the light from such a distant galaxy must travel huge distances to reach Earth, scientists are seeing the galaxy as it looked over 13 billion years ago. You can see the galaxy in this video from the Hubble Telescope team.

Read More: 'Lost in Space' Galaxy Shines Bright in Image Taken by Hubble Telescope

"We've taken a major step back in time, beyond what we'd ever expected to be able to do with Hubble. We managed to look back in time to measure the distance to a galaxy when the universe was only 3 percent of its current age," Pascal Oesch, an astronomer at Yale University and lead author of the research paper announcing the new measurement, said in a statement from the Hubble European Space Agency Information Centre in Germany.

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Measuring the distance to an extremely far-off cosmic object poses many challenges to scientists, including the fact that the universe is expanding, and has been expanding for nearly all of time. Any distance measurement must take into account exactly how much the space between objects has stretched since an object's light left and traveled to Earth.

This can get quite complicated. So instead of talking about the distance to cosmic objects in terms of miles, astronomers and astrophysicists will more often refer to when the object existed in the history of the universe.

Read More: Super-Bright Galaxy CR7 Reveals Signs of First Stars in the Universe

To determine this for GN-z11, scientists measured the degree to which the light from the galaxy has been shifted by the expanding universe, known as redshift. A higher redshift indicates a more distant object. Previously, the highest redshift ever measured was from the galaxy EGSY8p7, whose redshift was 8.68. The GN-z11 galaxy's newly measured redshift is a whopping 11.1.

This is a condensed version of an article that appeared on Space.com. Read the original story here. Follow Calla Cofield @callacofield. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+.

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