Astronomers say that the farthest galaxy ever seen in the universe makes the scene as a small blob that is much tinier than our Milky Way galaxy. The distant galaxy gives astronomers a glimpse of the past when the universe was three percent of its present age of 13.7 billion years. The farthest galaxy, called MACS0647-JD, was observed 420 million years after the big bang. Astronomers note that its light has traveled 13.3 billion years to reach Earth. 

This discovery is the latest find from a program that uses gravitational lensing to identify distant galaxies in the early universe. The Cluster Lensing And Supernova Survey with Hubble (CLASH) uses massive galaxy clusters to magnify distant galaxies behind them.

Astronomers say that without nature’s “zoom lenses,” the farthest galaxy would have never been spotted. Gravitational lensing helped the CLASH team grab three images of MACS0647-JD with the Hubble telescope. The cluster’s gravity make the images look approximately eight, seven, and two times brighter than they would have normally looked.

“This cluster does what no manmade telescope can do,” said Marc Postman of the Space Telescope Science Institute. “Without the magnification, it would require a Herculean effort to observe this galaxy.”