This new, discovered dead galaxy stopped making new stars just a few billion years after the big bang.

This Dead galaxy was not so easy to be found. That’s because objects in the distant universe appear small and difficult to see. So, astronomers need to see them through a cosmic magnifying glass.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have managed to catch a glimpse of this old, “dead” galaxy. This cluster already stopped making new stars just a few billion years after the Big Bang.

By looking billions of years back in time, we are testing theories about the history of galactic formation and evolution.

The newly found galaxy is half the size of the Milky Way, but three times as massive. Its compact disk of old, red stars is spinning rapidly over two times the speed of the stars orbiting the center of our own galaxy.

A study titled “A Massive, Dead Disk Galaxy in the Early Universe“, reports their findigs which appeared in the June 22 issue of the journal Nature. As the study indicates, the team relied on data from Hubble which they combined with gravitational lensing – where a massive cluster of galaxies magnifies and stretches images of more distant galaxies beyond them – to study the distant galaxy known as MACS 2129-1.

Image of the Galaxy Cluster MACS J2129-0741, as part of CLASH. Credit: hubblesite.org

Astronomers were able to spot it via a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. It occurs when a massive object, such as a galaxy cluster, bends the light from a distant object as it travels to Earth, magnifying the image we see on the sky. This allows researchers to probe very early epochs of the universe that are otherwise unresolvable with today’s current instruments.

What is the reason this galaxy burned out so early while retaining its disk shape? 

The exact cause is unknown, but some of the most likely possibilities include an active central supermassive black hole or streams of cold gas flowing into the galaxy. Either of which could prevent new stars from being born.

Sune Toft – a researcher from the Dark Cosmology Center at the Niels Bohr Institute and the lead author on the study – explained:

“This new insight may force us to rethink the whole cosmological context of how galaxies burn out early on and evolve into local elliptical-shaped galaxies, Perhaps we have been blind to the fact that early “dead” galaxies could in fact be disks, simply because we haven’t been able to resolve them.”

Toft and his team hope to take advantage of the James Webb Telescope (which will be launching in 2018) to search for more early dead galaxies. Thus, hoping that it can shed light on the unresolved questions this discover raises. With the new probe, astronomers expect that they will be able to search deeper into space. Therefore, finding mesmerizing information about the early Universe.