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Telescopes discover star factory

A star factory from the dawn of time has been discovered that is churning out new suns at the rate of 100 a year.

It has taken 12.9 billion years for light from the blob-shaped galaxy GN-108036 to reach the Earth. When the light began its journey, the universe was only 750 million years old.

Data from the Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes revealed a star production rate within GN-108036 equivalent to around 100 suns per year.

In contrast, our own Milky Way galaxy which is five time larger and 100 times more massive produces 30 times fewer stars.

"The discovery is surprising because previous surveys had not found galaxies this bright so early in the history of the universe," said Dr Mark Dickinson from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, US.

"It may be a special, rare object that we just happened to catch during an extreme burst of star formation."

Its great distance was carefully measured from the "redshift" stretching of light to longer red wavelengths by the expansion of the universe.

Objects with larger redshifts are more distant and seen further back in time.

Astronomers first identified the remote galaxy after scanning a large patch of sky with the Subaru Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

Only a handful of galaxies have confirmed redshifts greater than seven. GN-108036 has a redshift of 7.2.

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