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Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have uncovered seven primitive galaxies from a distant population that formed more than 13 billion years ago. In the process, their observations have put forward a candidate for the record for the most distant galaxy found to date (at redshift 11.9), and have shed new light on the earliest years of cosmic history. The galaxies are seen as they were when the Universe was less than 4 percent of its present age.
The resulting images offer the deepest ever view of the Universe at near-infrared wavelengths, which capture the redshifted  light of early galaxies. Because light takes so long to travel from these remote objects, astronomers are looking back in time, seeing these galaxies as they appeared 600 million years after the Big Bang (the Universe is now 13.7 billion years old). One object spotted by the team may be the most distant ever observed.
This is the first statistically robust census of galaxies at such an early time in cosmic history, and shows that the number of galaxies steadily increased with time, supporting the idea that the first galaxies didn’t form in a sudden burst but gradually assembled their stars
Our study has taken the subject forward in two ways,” says Ellis. “First, we have used Hubble to make longer exposures than previously. The added depth is essential to reliably probe the early period of cosmic history. Second, we have used Hubble’s available colour filters very effectively to measure galaxy distances more precisely.”
The results from the UDF 2012 campaign suggest there will be many undiscovered galaxies even deeper in space waiting to be revealed by the forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope, which will be launched in 2018.
These galaxies will require confirmation using spectroscopy by the forthcoming NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope before they are considered to be fully confirmed.