There are two things happening when you’re observing distant stars or galaxies. You’re looking through space, measured as a physical distance, but you’re also looking through time. These celestial bodies are so far away, that it takes millions and billions of years for their light to travel to Earth.
Now, the Hubble Space Telescope is seeing the farthest away and deepest in time it’s ever observed. Astronomers just discovered a group of extremely old galaxies never seen before. If the universe were 100 years old, these galaxies would have been born when it was just a toddler of three. Researchers hope this will provide insight on how galaxies form.
It’s no wonder the telescope hasn’t seen these galaxies before; it was only three years ago that the Hubble got an upgrade and the newly installed Wide Field Camera 3, an extremely powerful piece of equipment. Despite the flashy new tools, Hubble is nearing the end of its tenure. The repairs in 2009 was the last mission to the telescope. When the James Webb Telescope is launched in 2014, it will take over most of the Hubble’s duties, including the search for 13.3 billion+ year old galaxies.