NASA believes it has found the most distant galaxy observed to date. MACS0647-JD is just a fraction of the size of the Milky Way and believed to be 13.3 billion light years away.
Since the image displays the galaxy as it existed 13.3 billion years ago, it provides an unprecedented view into the beginnings of our universe as the big bang is theorized to have happened about 13.7 billion years ago. The image of MACS0647-JD represents an environment when the universe was just 420 million years old.
NASA said that it used the Hubble and Spitzer telescopes as well as "natural zoom lenses" to acquire the image.
The organization noted that 8 billion years after MACS0647-JD light had begun its journey, "it took a detour along multiple paths around the massive galaxy cluster MACS J0647+7015." The cluster served as magnification source for the light source:
"Because of gravitational lensing, the […] research team was able to observe three magnified images of MACS0647-JD with the Hubble telescope," NASA said. "The cluster's gravity boosted the light from the faraway galaxy, making the images appear about eight, seven, and two times brighter than they otherwise would that enabled astronomers to detect the galaxy more efficiently and with greater confidence."
NASA estimates that MACS0647-JD is less than 600 light years wide, which compares to 150,000 light years of the Milky Way.