An international team of astronomers have found what could be the most distant galaxy ever discovered. Located 13 billion light-years away, it’s being seen when the Universe was only 750 million years old. The object was found by combining the power of the Hubble Space Telescope and the W.M. Keck telescope; they also used the natural gravitational lensing effect of a relatively nearby galaxy, which focused the light of the more distant galaxy.
The photo on that article has a nice collection of objects that have been stretched by the gravitational lens. The article notes that the object “is so far away its visible light has been stretched into infrared wavelengths”, which could be more accurately described as because the objects light wavelengths have shifted to the infrared due to the fact that it is moving away from us at at a high speed. Due to the overall expansion of the universe, objects that are more distant from others tend to be moving away at a faster rate, expanding their light wavelengths and causing them to appear more reddish. (Imagine being at the center of an inflating balloon – the edges will recede faster than the space in your immediate vicinity.) The “redshift” effect can be used to determine the distance of the object. For lots more information on this subject, follow this link.
My friend Chris H. and I did a complete statistical analysis of near vs. distant stars for our Statistics class in college, showing the color properties of stars and how to measure distance and ages of them based on these properties. We put some hard time into that thing and still wound up having to pull an all-nighter the day before it was due, hammering out the text and formulas on an old 512k Mac and inserting the scatterplots here and there. The final page came out of the printer just minutes before the class started, we marched in, put the bastard on the top of the stack, and then I went home and passed out.