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Oldest galaxy: Hubble telescope detects farthest, oldest galaxy yet

Oldest galaxy: Astronomers using the Hubble telescope have detected a galaxy that formed just 500 million years after the Big Bang, making it the most distant and oldest galaxy discovered so far.

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This image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows the most distant and oldest galaxy yet discovered.

NASA/AP

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This story was updated at 2:30 pm ET.

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have peered further back in time than ever before, spotting a galaxy that formed less than 500 million years after the birth of our universe, making it the oldest and most distant ever seen.

The find, reported today (Jan. 26) in the journal Nature, should help astronomers better understand the early days of the universe, researchers said. In particular, the discovery should shed light on the evolution of early galaxies, which first formed just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

"In essence, the most important aspect of this is, it provides us with some sense of how fast galaxies are building up," lead author Rychard Bouwens, of the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) and Leiden University in The Netherlands, told SPACE.com. "It provides a sort of measuring stick."

Peering backward through time

Bouwens and his colleagues analyzed observations made by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. They looked at infrared data gathered by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, which was installed on the telescope in 2009. [Most Amazing Hubble Discoveries]

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