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As NASA Discovers Young Galaxy, Standards Help Reach for the Stars

Astronomers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), have discovered one of the youngest galaxies in the distant universe. The finding, NASA says, challenges theories about when the first galaxies arose, and how the early universe evolved.

Infrared data from NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes reveal that the galaxy's stars formed 13.5 billion years ago, just 200 million years after the Big Bang. While it's not the most distant galaxy ever observed, the newfound galaxy is remarkable in that it is one of the youngest to be seen with such clarity. Young galaxies are typically faint and exceedingly difficult to see. But thanks to a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing, nature has provided a kind of cosmic magnifying glass: the gravity of a cluster of galaxies residing in front of the galaxy makes it appear 11 times brighter than it actually is.

Though the marvels of this newfound galaxy would not have been detected without the aid of this natural phenomenon, a number of voluntary standards from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) may help to reveal some of the universe's best kept secrets for astronomers and amateurs alike.

ISO 14490-1:2005, Optics and optical instruments - Test methods for telescopic systems - Part 1: Test methods for basic characteristics, specifies test methods for determining characteristics of telescopic systems and observational telescopic instruments such as angular magnification, image rotation, and field of view. Meanwhile, common terminology and definitions are outlined in ISO 14132-4:2002, Optics and optical instruments -- Vocabulary for telescopic systems -- Part 4: Terms for astronomical telescopes.

Recreational stargazers looking to study the path of constellations or neighboring planets can benefit from standards specific to amateur astronomical telescopes. Respectively, ISO 14134:2006 and ISO 14490-4:2005 outline specifications and test methods for amateur telescopes, helping backyard astronomers in their quest to get a glimpse of galaxies far, far away.

These standards were developed by ISO Technical Committee (TC) 172, Optics and optical instruments, Subcommittee, (SC) 4, Telescopic systems. The Optics and Electro-Optics Standards Council administers the ANSI-accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to ISO TC 172 and its subcommittees.

For more information on the new discovery, visit

Image courtesy of NASA.

Did You Know?

  • NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, a successor to Hubble and Spitzer scheduled to launch later this decade, will be able to see faint galaxies lacking magnification.
  • In January, Hubble discovered what is likely to be the most distant object ever seen in the universe. The object's light traveled 13.2 billion years to reach Hubble, roughly 150 million years longer than the previous record holder.
  • The first known working telescopes were invented in the Netherlands at the start of the 17th century.
  • The naked eye can see a galaxy 2½ million light-years away.
  • The universe was born 13.7 billion years ago.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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