When searching for galaxies to study, it is easiest to pick out the biggest and brightest. This is especially true if you want to look at very distant galaxies; ones that were around when the Universe was very young. It is quite a challenge to pick out a faint, normal, almost "boring" galaxy from a time long ago, but when astronomers used the 10-meter Keck telescope to do just that, it was pretty exciting.
PHOTOS: Hubble's Sexiest Spiral Galaxies
The galaxy, called DLA2222-0946, was first discovered in absorption, meaning that it was blocking some of the light of a distant quasar behind it in a very specific way. In fact, the first few letters of its name stand for "Damped Lyman-alpha," a system where the neutral hydrogen in a galaxy absorbs certain frequencies of light from the background quasar. It is thought that these massive reservoirs of neutral gas are the progenitors of today's Milky Way-like galaxies.
This galaxy was then detected by the huge 10-meter telescope Keck I telescope. Not only was it detected, but it was resolved, meaning that astronomers could get some spatial information from it. As you can see above, the pictures are jaw-droppingly amazing, but the information contained in those images is important. In order to get such a clear picture, the team used the Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics system, or a laser guide "star" for calibration and real-time adjustments to the telescope mirrors to compensate for the turbulence of the atmosphere.