Hubble spots faint galaxy with 'natural magnifying glass'

'Tayna' existed just 400 million years after the big bang.

NASA's Hubble and Spitzer have been ridiculously successful at spotting distant objects, but some galaxies are too faint to spot directly. Thanks to gravitational lensing, the space telescopes have found the dimmest object ever from the early universe -- a galaxy that existed 13.4 billion years ago, or a mere 400 million years after the big bang. Dubbed "Tayna," or new-born, the object belongs to a new class of faint, newly formed galaxies that have evaded detection until now. It's roughly the size of the Magellanic Cloud near our own Milky Way galaxy, but makes new stars at around ten times the rate.

While more distant galaxies have been found, astronomers believe that Tayna may be more representative of the early universe shortly after the big bang. The telescopes were only able to image the faint object thanks to another cluster of galaxies in front of it, around 4 billion light years away. First spotted by Hubble, they act as a secondary "telescope," boosting light from Tanya up to 20 times via a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. Once the James Webb telescope comes online, it will be able to image such galaxies directly, but Hubble (again) has given us a hint as to the rich array of objects we can expect to see with it.