Scientists using the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have spotted the faintest object ever seen in the early universe. Named Tayna, the compact galaxy was one of 22 such objects recently found thanks to an intriguing physics trick – a natural magnifying lens in space.

The tiny young galaxy existed just 400 million years after the Big Bang. Because it’s so far away, we’re seeing Tayna as it was back in the early days of the universe. Researchers believe that we may have caught it in the process of growing into a fully-sized galaxy.

Tayna (meaning “first-born” in Aymara, a language spoken in the Andes) is about the same size as the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite of the Milky Way about 14,000 light years across. But it’s making stars about 10 times faster.

With space telescopes getting better and better – and scientists developing more and more techniques with which to use them – we’re now starting to uncover some of the punier galaxies.

The secret behind Tayna’s discovery (and that of the other 21 faint objects, all described Thursday in The Astrophysical Journal) is a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. Massive clusters of galaxies have a warping effect on the light that passes through them, much like a magnifying glass does. When a distant object is positioned just so – so that, from Earth’s perspective, the massive cluster is in front of the more distant object – it’s as if our space telescopes are looking into a magnified version of distant space.