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The oldest and most distant galaxy yet known, pushing back by several billion years the time when the first stars of the universe were formed, has been discovered by an astronomer in Hawaii, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The newly found galaxy, which is about 10 times the size of the Milky Way galaxy in which Earth resides, was discovered by Simon J. Lilly, a staff astronomer at the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy, the Post said.Lilly spotted the galaxy, called 0902+34, on two different telescopes based atop Hawaii's dormant Mauna Kea volcano. His report has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal, the newspaper said.

The discovery moves the start of the epoch of galaxy formation to within a billion or so years of the big bang the explosion in which many believe the universe was born so close that it challenges a widely held theory about the nature of the universe.

According to that theory, most of the universe's mass consists of "cold dark matter," so called because it cannot be detected.