The 4 Most Distant Space Objects Ever Spotted As Farthest Galaxy Found

It's been an impressive year for astronomy so far as scientists have broken records for the most distant star and the most distant galaxy ever discovered.

The distant objects were spotted even without the help of the groundbreaking new James Webb Space Telescope, which is gearing up for its first scientific observations later this year, potentially enabling us to comb parts of the universe more distant than ever before.

Until then, Newsweek has compiled a list of some of the most distant objects ever found.

Most distant galaxy

This year, an international team of researchers announced that they had discovered what they think is the most distant galaxy ever found.

Located 13.5 billion light years away, HD1 is a galaxy candidate that was spotted after researchers spent more than 1,200 hours looking through various telescopes.

Little is known about it so far. The team who discovered HD1 propose that it may have been rapidly forming some of the universe's very first stars—bearing in mind that when we look at distant objects we are seeing them as they were in the past rather than as they are now. Another theory is that it contains a supermassive black hole.

Finding out more about it will be difficult, according to Fabio Pacucci, co-author of two papers describing HD1. "It's like guessing the nationality of a ship from the flag it flies, while being faraway ashore, with the vessel in the middle of a gale and dense fog," he said in a Harvard University press release.

It is hoped that upcoming telescopes like Webb will help investigate galaxies like HD1 further.

Most distant star

On March 30th, NASA announced that the Hubble Space Telescope had been used to detect the farthest individual star ever seen.

The star is named Earendel, meaning "morning star" in Old English. It is located about 12.9 billion light years away and is estimated to be at least 50 times the mass of the sun.

Earendel star
A photo of Earendel's position in space, distorted by the mass of other objects that are located between the Hubble telescope and Earendel's position. The star is estimated to be at least 50 times the mass of the sun. NASA/ESA/Brian Welch JHU)/Dan Coe (STScl

Scientists think that the star existed within the first billion years of the universe, giving us a valuable insight into very early star formation.

Astronomer Brian Welch of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and lead author of the paper describing the discovery told NASA: "Studying Earendel will be a window into an era of the universe that we are unfamiliar with, but that led to everything we do know."

The paper was published in the journal Nature.

Most distant quasar

In January, 2021 astronomers detailed the discovery of J0313-1806, a quasar located 13.03 billion light years away from Earth.

J0313-1806
A digital illustration of the quasar J0313-1806, the most distant quasar known. The object is thought to host an enormous supermassive black hole. NOIRLab/NSF/Aura/J. da Silva/Space Engine

The most distant quasar discovered, it dates to only about 670 million years after the Big Bang and contains a supermassive black hole with a mass of 1.6 billion suns, according to a University of Arizona press release.

Quasars are extremely bright astronomical objects believed to be the centers of infant galaxies, their light powered by gas spiraling quickly into an extremely large black hole.

Most distant object explored

Up last is the most distant object ever explored up close by scientists: Arrokoth (2014 MU69), a small, icy object that orbits the sun 4.1 billion miles from Earth in a region of the solar system known as the Kuiper Belt, which lies beyond the orbit of Neptune.

Solar system object Arrokoth
A photo of the solar system object Arrokoth, taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft in January, 2019. It is the most distant object to be explored by a spacecraft. NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Arrokoth was visited by the New Horizons probe in 2019—a fly-by that revealed its strange shape referred to by NASA as snowman-like. It also has a red coloration.

Arrokoth is thought to be two objects that merged into one. It measures about 22 miles end to end and its name means "sky" in the Powhatan/Algonquian language, according to NASA.