Hubble sets record by spotting galaxy 13.4 billion light-years away

The galaxy, named GN-z11, is located in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major.

Astronomers have said they found the most distant galaxy ever to be identified, using the Hubble Space Telescope.

Yale University astronomer Pascal Oesch, the lead author of a study soon to be published, said the newly discovered galaxy was formed just 400 million years after the Big Bang explosion.

"This really represents the pinnacle of Hubble's exploration of galaxies across cosmic history... Hubble has proven once again, even after almost 26 years in space, just how special it is," said Oesch.

The galaxy, named GN-z11, is located 13.4 billion light-years away from Earth in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major.

Though astronomers spotted it two years ago, they continued to conduct follow-up observations and further experiments using an instrument on Hubble that splits light into its component wavelengths to determine the galaxy's actual distance from the earth.

The scientists will publish the detailed research in next week's issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

GN-z11, which was formed when the universe at its infancy, contains about 1 billion times the mass of the sun, the researchers said.

"We're seeing this galaxy in its infancy. It's amazing that a galaxy so massive existed only 200 million to 300 million years after the very first stars started to form," astronomer Garth Illingworth of the University of California said, according to Reuters.

The discovery is a major step back in time, "beyond what we'd ever expected to be able to do with Hubble," Oesch added.

"When the telescope was launched we were investigating galaxies a little over half-way back in cosmic history. Now, we're going 97% of the way back. It really is a tremendous achievement," he told BBC.

However, astronomers believe that Hubble has almost reached the limits of its utility and that a successor, which will be launched in 2018, will help them delve deeper into space.