NASA Hubble Space Telescope has captured an image of the oldest galaxy on record, the space administration announced Tuesday.
The space administration said it has captured an image of a group of galaxies located 13.1 billion light years away. The team said the galaxies represent a cluster in the initial stages of development.

“These galaxies formed during the earliest stages of galaxy assembly, when galaxies had just started to cluster together,” said Michele Trenti of the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge in the U.K. “The result confirms our theoretical understanding of the buildup of galaxy clusters. And, Hubble is just powerful enough to find the first examples of them at this distance.”

The space administration notes that galaxy clusters are among the largest structures in the universe, comprising hundreds to thousands of galaxies bound together by gravity. The developing cluster, or protocluster, is seen as it looked 13 billion years ago.

Hubble spotted the five galaxies while performing a random sky survey in near-infrared light. The newfound galaxies are small, ranging from 10 percent to 50 percent the size of our own Milky Way. But they are similar in brightness to the Milky Way, said astronomers
NASA says the galaxy has likely grown into one of today’s massive “galactic cities,” comparable to the nearby Virgo cluster of more than 2,000 galaxies.

Astronomers note that most galaxies in the universe reside in groups and clusters, and astronomers say discovering clusters in the early phases of construction has been a challenge due to the fact that they are rare, dim and widely scattered across the sky. The new find helps demonstrate that galaxies build up progressively over time, researchers said. It also provides further evidence for the hierarchical model of galaxy assembly.
The team of astronomers are scheduled to deliver the results of the findings Tuesday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas.

“Records are always exciting, and this is the earliest and the most distant developing galaxy cluster that has ever been seen,” said Michael Shull, a member of the team who discovered the protocluster. “We have seen individual galaxies this old and far away, but we have not seen groups of them in the construction process before.”
NASA administration officials said the latest cluster of galaxies represents an enormous contribution to the study of galaxies. The space agency said the size of galaxy cluster, while relatively large, pales in comparison to our own Milky Way galaxy. NASA astronomers also say the brightness of the galaxy cluster is an indication that the galaxies remain fairly young and have likely merged and formed the brightest central galaxy in the cluster.

“The five bright galaxies spotted by Hubble are about one-half to one-tenth the size of our Milky Way, yet are comparable in brightness,” NASA reported. “The galaxies are bright and massive because they are being fed large amounts of gas through mergers with other galaxies.”

The team estimated the distance to the newly spied galaxies based on their colors, but the astronomers plan to follow up with spectroscopic observations to confirm their distance.

The image is the latest victory for Hubble. NASA announced earlier in the week the discovery of the largest cluster of galaxies seen yet in the early universe, a giant that astronomers have dubbed “El Gordo.”
El Gordo — whose name means “the fat one” in Spanish — is officially known as ACT-CL J0102-4915 and “is located more than 7 billion light-years from Earth.
The study will also be published in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

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