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Spectroscopic identification of a galaxy at a probable redshift of z = 6.68


The detection and identification of distant galaxies is an important goal of observational cosmology, as such galaxies are seen at a time when the Universe was very young. The development of new techniques and instrumentation permits the search for ever-fainter galaxies, and so aids attempts to determine when the first stars and galaxies formed. Here we report the identification of a galaxy at a probable redshift of 6.68, the most distant object yet detected. The galaxy's spectrum is characterized by an abrupt discontinuity at a wavelength λ≈ 9,300 Å, which we interpret as arising from the absorption of light at shorter wavelengths by hydrogen gas along the line of sight (the Lyman-α decrement), and by an emission line at λ≈ 9,334 Å, which we interpret as the Lyman-α line at a redshift of 6.68. The galaxy is relatively bright: the ultraviolet luminosity density contributed by this one galaxy is almost ten times the value measured at z = 3.

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Figure 1: Image and spectra of galaxy A and its neighbours.
Figure 2: Redshift likelihood function of galaxy A.


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We thank H. Spinrad, and B. Woodgate, B. Hill and the rest of the STIS instrument team for discussions. This work was supported by NASA and the US NSF.

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Correspondence to Hsiao-Wen Chen.

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Chen, HW., Lanzetta, K. & Pascarelle, S. Spectroscopic identification of a galaxy at a probable redshift of z = 6.68. Nature 398, 586–588 (1999).

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