An object with a mass of around the same as 40,000,000,000 suns (you read that right, 40 billion) and a width of 55,000 light years across has been discovered somewhere near the beginning of time, at 12.9 billion years old. Scientists are estimating the object is about 800 million years older than the dawn of the universe, and it signals the earliest stages of galaxy formation.
From an article at space.com:
“I have never heard about any [similar] objects that could be resolved at this distance,” said Masami Ouchi, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution in Pasadena, Calif. “It’s kind of record-breaking.”
A light-year is the distance light travels in a year, about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers). An object 12.9 billion light-years away is seen as it existed 12.9 billion years ago, and the light is just now arriving.
The cloud predates similar blobs, known as Lyman-Alpha blobs, which existed when the universe was 2 billion to 3 billion years old. Researchers named their new find Himiko, after an ancient Japanese queen with an equally murky past.
Himiko holds more than 10 times as much mass as the next largest object found in the early universe, or roughly the equivalent mass of 40 billion suns. At 55,000 light years across, it spans about half the diameter of our Milky Way Galaxy.
Another amazing discovery – someday we’ll have more imagery of this discovery.