back to article Imagine the candles on its birthday cake: Astro-eggheads detect galaxy born in universe's first billion years

A large international team of astronomers has detected one of the oldest galaxies in the universe we've seen to date – born within a billion years after the Big Bang. That would make it one of the very first things to form in our fledgling universe. The now-elderly galaxy, codenamed G09 83808, was first glimpsed during a scan …

  1. Tom 64
    Paris Hilton

    Gravitational Lensing

    >"The research team also used gravitational lensing ..."

    This paragraph makes it sound like GL is a neat tool an astronomer can pull out of his box for better results.

    The reality is that an astronomer cannot simply move massive galactic clusters around, and GL is likely the ONLY reason that this galaxy was observable at all.

    Check your science, El Reg.

    1. Solarflare

      Re: Gravitational Lensing

      Pish posh. They get their handy astronomer stick and bat some of the interfering galaxies out of the way, then they put on their gravitational lens (pretty much a monocle, but weighs more) and viola! they can see the galaxy.

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: Gravitational Lensing

        "and viola! they can see the galaxy."

        Perhaps you could see even older galaxies with a double bass. More mass.

        1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Gravitational Lensing

          Ah, this must be the source of that "string theory" I've heard so much about. I assume that black holes are the horn section?

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Tom 64

      Thanks for deliberately misreading the story. Post less.

      C.

  2. jake Silver badge

    "The now-elderly galaxy"

    For "now-elderly" read "very probably long deceased".

    1. 0laf Silver badge

      Re: "The now-elderly galaxy"

      No maybe not. Most of the hot blue stuff will be gone but any red/brown dwarfs will still be smouldering away and there will probably still be the odd star being formed.

      that's assuming it hasn't collided with anything in the intervening 13 billion years.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: "The now-elderly galaxy"

        Galaxies don't exactly "collide", more "combine". Well, if they don't "spin each other out into space" that is. :)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @0laf

        "red/brown dwarfs will still be smouldering away "

        I knew a girl like that once

    2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: "The now-elderly galaxy"

      "very probably long deceased".

      I'm getting better!

      You're not. You'll be stone dead in a few minutes.

      I don't want to go on the cart.

  3. Flatpackhamster

    Where are they moving to?

    Are they on the edge of the universe? Yes there was nothing and then it exploded, but if they're the oldest galaxies are they the furthest things from us? Is the universe ball-shaped and are we on the inside or the outside of the ball? Where is the centre and where did it explode from?

    It gives me such a headache to try to understand it.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Where are they moving to?

      This can cause brain aches!

      A good starting point is understanding the Observable Universe.

      1. Gobhicks

        Re: Where are they moving to?

        "A good starting point is understanding the Observable Universe."

        And that's supposed to help? viz:

        "However, due to Hubble's law, regions sufficiently distant from the Earth are expanding away from it faster than the speed of light (special relativity prevents nearby objects in the same local region from moving faster than the speed of light with respect to each other, but there is no such constraint for distant objects when the space between them is expanding; see uses of the proper distance for a discussion) and furthermore the expansion rate appears to be accelerating due to dark energy."

        I've been struggling with this kind of cosmic stuff for decades. See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shape_of_the_universe

        It's all inside your head, and my head, and his head and her head. Boggle

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Where are they moving to?

      It gives me such a headache to try to understand it.

      I'm afraid it's bound to give you a very big headache if you start off by thinking that we're outside the universe.

      Best to start off with the basics.

    3. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Where are they moving to?

      "Where is the centre and where did it explode from?"

      From the tip of your nose. And I'm not even kidding. Whatever corner of space it currently occupies, that exact spot was right there where the explosion happened. Then space kinda went Tardis-wise and now it's a lot bigger on he inside...

    4. Captain DaFt

      Re: Where are they moving to?

      Are they on the edge of the universe? Yes there was nothing and then it exploded, but if they're the oldest galaxies are they the furthest things from us? Is the universe ball-shaped and are we on the inside or the outside of the ball? Where is the centre and where did it explode from?

      It gives me such a headache to try to understand it.

      Got aspirin? Here's a layman's view:

      That galaxy's not at the edge, it's exactly in the center. Just the same as everything else in the Universe, including you, me, and that thing over there. Any point in space is the center of the Universe, because there's no 'outside' or 'edge' to it as far as our understanding goes. (Real brainbreaker: There is nothing outside the Universe, not even the Universe, because it only exists within itself!)

      It's all center, but the center is getting bigger!

      Oh, and that galaxy's not moving to anywhere.

      It and everything else in the Universe is moving away from everything else. (Re: The center is getting bigger)

      Space is expanding at (apparently) an ever increasing rate, but matter remains the same size it was when it was formed, so there's always more space between the big lumps (galaxies) than there was before. (stars and stuff in galaxies are close enough for gravity to hold them together despite expansion.)

      1. Flatpackhamster

        Re: Where are they moving to?

        I read that drunk and I read it sober and I think I preferred reading it drunk.

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    WTF?

    Confused

    According to this Hubble press release, they spotted the galaxy MACS0647-JD when it was just 420 millions years old. Which seems younger than G09 83808 by around half a billion years.

    Can someone clever explain what's going on here?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Confused

      Can someone clever explain what's going on here?

      Maybe Dr Min Yun was just talking about galaxies that had been found with the LMT.

    2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Confused

      G09 83808 isn't the galaxy spotted earliest in the universe's history, however, it is spotted very early on, and we've gotten a chance to get a slightly better look at it than we could with previous instruments. Any and all objects that we can spot which are from about 1B years after the universe formed or earlier will get press, and rightly so. They're a miserable pig to find, and they can tell us a great deal about the early universe.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Confused

        "They're a miserable pig to find"

        Hard to find, yes. I doubt miserable is an appropriate term. If you think working on technically challenging scientific experiments is miserable you don't understand the people who do it.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: Confused

          They're less "technically challenging" than they are "a damned lot of tedious, boring, thankless work". I.E. a miserable pig.

          You have to go through a lot of data before you even get to a candidate. Long after the fun work's been done, and the challenges of building the 'scope are long past, there's just crunching image after image. If you're really lucky an algorithm can help some. Even then, that's an awful lot of faint smudges and maths.

          1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Confused

            "You have to go through a lot of data"

            That's what graduate students are for.

  5. frank ly Silver badge

    Astro-eggheads

    Is there a difference between astro-eggheads and astro-boffins? Do they work in different areas of sudy or something?

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Astro-eggheads

      I wondered that too - 'eggheads' make me think of the Mekon - is the difference that eggheads are boffins who've been seduced by the Dark Side?

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Astro-eggheads

      Typing as a Yank who has spent a good portion of my life in the UK ... The way I see it, "Egghead" is a Yank term similar to "Boffin", but is usually used in a mildly derogatory manor. Eggheads are seen as somehow being elitist by hoi poloi. It's a 1950s-1970s term that is mostly depreciated these days. If I had my druthers, I'd much prefer to see ElReg stick with the term Boffin.

      1. Unep Eurobats
        Flame

        Re: Astro-eggheads

        Here's another vote for boffin. I suppose egghead is an alternative to prevent too much repetition but I feel it has more negative connotations.

        How about an El Reg poll to find a better synonym?

      2. ravenviz

        Re: Astro-eggheads

        So not Tefal-head then?

  6. lidgaca
    Headmaster

    Big, yeah but not the biggest ...

    "The LMT, meanwhile, is our planet's largest single-dish radio telescope"

    The link says that the LMT is 32 (or 50) m dia ... the rather old Lovell telescope at Joderell Bank is 76 m dia ...

    -- Chris

    1. Scroticus Canis
      Meh

      Re: Big, yeah but not the biggest ...

      Arecibo Observatory 305m diameter.

      Next bid?

      1. cray74

        Re: Big, yeah but not the biggest ...

        Arecibo Observatory 305m diameter.

        Shirley you meant the 500-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope, FAST? Assuming you don't count the unfilled aperture 600-meter RATAN-600.

    2. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

      Re: Big, yeah but not the biggest ...

      The Unreliable Source accuses it of being the "largest single-aperture telescope in its frequency range", which is a more credible claim. The others noted are not designed for the 0.85 to 4 millimetre wavelength range.

    3. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Big, yeah but not the biggest ...

      LMT is the biggest steerable single-dish *millimetre-wavelength* telescope. I've made that clearer.

      Don't forget to email corrections@theregister.com if you spot anything wrong.

      C.

  7. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Warra crap headline

    All those birthday candles wouldnt illuminate a pixel here once a million years.

    I demand a new entry into the reg measurement guidelines - a 'Boris' perhaps - the light seen from a candle 14 billion light years away.

    1. ravenviz
      Boffin

      Re: Warra crap headline

      My rough estimate is that 13 billion candles could occupy a cake 650 m across.

      Given the world's largest cake to date, our "G09 83808" cake could weigh 7 tonnes.

  8. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    @ Katyanna Quach -- Just for the (incredibly rare) future reference...

    As a local, I feel that I should correct one tiny infelicity in this otherwise cogently-written article:

    Once one has identified the particular branch of the University of Massachusetts (University of Massachusetts-Amherst | -Boston | -Lowell | -Worcester, etc.) the school may simply be referred to as UMass. This is particularly important in regard to UMass-Amherst, since the private, ivy-league-lite, Amherst College ALSO resides in the town and -- while the context is clear in the article -- confusion can occur if the "Amherst" designation is used by itself to identify UMass-Amherst.

    And -- Trust me! -- historically, UMies and Amhersters generally have NOT liked being cross-identified! "Public School (American version) vs. Preppies" is like mixing oil and water.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Mike Moyle

      Point taken - it's fixed.

      C.

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