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Astrophysicists detect a galaxy far, far away

By Associated Press
Published February 16, 2004

PASADENA, Calif. - In a discovery that offers a glimpse of when the universe was just 750-million years old, a team of astrophysicists said Sunday they have detected a tiny galaxy that is the farthest known object from Earth.

"We are confident it is the most distant known object," California Institute of Technology astronomer Richard Ellis said of the galaxy, which lies roughly 13-billion light-years from Earth.

The team uncovered the faint galaxy using two of the most powerful telescopes - the Hubble in space, another in Hawaii - aided by the natural magnification provided by a massive cluster of galaxies. The gravitational tug of the cluster, called Abell 2218, deflects the light of the distant galaxy and magnifies it many times over.

The discovery sheds light on the time when the first stars began to blink on, ending a period that cosmologists call the Dark Ages. No one knows how long the Dark Ages lasted in the wake of the Big Bang 13.7-billion years ago.

[Last modified February 16, 2004, 01:31:39]

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