Tayna Galaxy – Faintest Galaxy From Early Universe Observed by NASA Telescopes

by Sankalan Baidya

Recently spotted Tayna Galaxy is a screaming example of the fact that every time we look far and deep into our known universe, we look back in time. The Spitzer Space Telescope and the celebrated Hubble Space Telescope together picked up this ancient relic from our early universe. Tayna Galaxy is not making the news headlines for being the farthest celestial object detected so far. In fact there are other objects that are way more distant than Tayna.

What really sets Tayna apart is its age, making it one-of-a-kind relic, a treasure trove of knowledge that will possibly tell us much about our known universe in its early days after the Big Bang. It is now widely accepted that the Big Bang formed our universe some 13.8 billion years ago. Tayna was formed a while later. In terms of universe, this ‘while’ is actually 400 million years. This means that with Tayna being spotted we are looking at least 13.4 billion years back in time.

According to NASA astronomers, Tayna Galaxy was there some 400 million years after the Big Bang and belonged to a class of galaxies that were not just newly formed but were also faint or dim and small. Astronomers at NASA are hopeful that this newly discovered relic of the past will help us understand a lot about the evolution and formation of earliest of galaxies that lived in our universe.

However, Tayna is not a standalone discovery. In fact it is a part of 22 young galaxies discovered that were formed during the ancient days. All these 22 galaxies (including the Tayna) were discovered at our observable universe’s horizon and their discovery ramped up the total number of very distant galaxies known so far. The results about this new discovery have been published in The Astrophysical Journal’s issue dated December 3.

As far as the size of Tayna Galaxy is concerned, experts say that is about the size of Large Magellanic Cloud which, despite its name, is a tiny satellite galaxy to our very own Milky Way. However, experts believe that Tayna, though about the same size as Large Magellanic Cloud is producing stars at 10 times faster rate than Large Magellanic Cloud. This led the experts to think that the Tayna may actually be the growing core which will eventually end up as a full-sized galaxy like our Milky Way or may be even bigger.

Gravitation Lensing Helped Spotting Tayna Galaxy

Interestingly, Tayna Galaxy was spotted because of a natural magnifying effect of MACS0416.1-2403 – a massive galaxy cluster. This magnifying effect is known to us as gravitational lensing – a phenomenon that was originally proposed in The General Theory of Relativity by Albert Einstein. Tayna, which is extremely dim sits far behind the galaxy cluster known as MACS0416.1-2403. This galaxy cluster is extremely massive. If we are to calculate its mass, it will be equal to the total mass of a million billion suns. The MACS0416.1-2403 is located nearly 4 billion light years away from earth and the Tayna is located even further.

Because of the massive gravitational force of MACS0416.1-2403, the light from Tayna Galaxy was boosted significantly, making it look 20 times brighter. This helped the Hubble Space Telescope to spot the galaxy. Astronomers tried to figure out the exact color and distance of Tayna Galaxy using the principle that light from distant galaxies are reddened because the light stretches as the universe keeps expanding. The faster they move away and farther they are from us, the redder they appear. The scientists combined the observations made by both Hubble and Spitzer to a proper color profile on infrared spectrum. They say that the intergalactic cool hydrogen present in the universe also absorbs some particular light wavelengths, making galaxies appear redder than they actually are. According to the experts, Tayna Galaxy’s light was originally white or blue.

Scientists are now hopeful that the new James Webb Space Telescope (which is currently under construction) when placed further out compared to Hubble and Spitzer will allow them to examine in greater details many more galaxies that were formed near the beginning of our universe.

As far as the naming of Tayna Galaxy is concerned, ‘Tayna’ is a word from a language known as Aymara. This language is spoken in South America’s Altiplano and Andes regions. Tayna in English translates as ‘new-born’. Thus, the name is perfectly justified!

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

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