Astronomers have discovered a new galaxy that can produce about 3,000 sun-like stars per year. This makes it the most productive star factory in the early universe. The massive galaxy, called HFLS3, is located 12.8 billion light-years from the Earth.
The galaxy started churning out stars when the cosmos was just 880 million years old. The discovery was made using the European Space Agency's Herschel space observatory.
"This galaxy is proof that very intense bursts of star formation existed only 880 million years after the Big Bang, We've gotten a valuable look at a very important epoch in the development of the first galaxies," said Dominik Riechers of Cornell University.
The astronomers say the galaxy is a "maximum-starburst" galaxy. It has enough dark matter and gases to produce an entire cluster of galaxies. It produces stars at a rate 2,000 times greater than the Milky Way. It generates the mass equivalent of 2,900 suns per year.
Scientists found that the galaxy has a mass of stars nearly 40 billion times the mass of the Sun. The gas and dust surrounding the core is 100 billion times the mass of the Sun.
The Universe currently is about 13.7 billion years old. This means the galaxy started producing stars when the universe was in its infancy. The galaxy is so far away, astronomers can only see it as it looked when the universe was only 6 percent of its current age or when the 14-billion-year-old universe was just 880 million years old.
"This galaxy is just one spectacular example, but it's telling us that extremely vigorous star formation is possible early in the universe," said Jamie Bock, co-author of the paper and professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, in a statement.