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Scientists have discovered the most distant and ancient galaxy ever spotted.

By using data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope and observations from the Keck I telescope at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, astronomers have now confirmed that the galaxy designated z8_GND_5296 formed within 700 million years after the beginning of the universe, making it the oldest and most distant galaxy ever verified.

Because the galaxy is so far from Earth, scientists were able to observe z8_GND_5296 as it would have appeared about 13.1 billion years ago. [How Galaxies are Classified by Type (Infographic)]

"The most exciting aspect in general of what I do is the fact that we can learn about what things were like in the very early universe," Steven Finkelstein, the lead author of an astronomer at the University of Texas, Austin, said. "Because the speed of light is not constant, light takes time to get here, we're not seeing these galaxies as they are now. We're seeing them as they were 13 billion years ago which is 95 percent of the way back to the Big Bang."

Scientists are seeing the galaxy as it was when it was very young. Many of the now old stars that were part of the galaxy are probably still in existence today, but they might be part of a bigger galaxy, Finkelstein told SPACE.com

It's possible that Hubble has detected galaxies that are farther away, but z8_GND_5296 is the farthest galaxy confirmed by follow-up observations using other astronomical instruments, scientists said.

Hubble's CANDELS (Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy) survey has discovered about 100,000 galaxies, and the team of astronomers observed 43 of them for the new study, published in the journal Nature.

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