The early universe is full of monsters, a new study revealed. Researchers around astronomer Christina Williams discovered a previously invisible galaxy and possibly a new galaxy population waiting to be discovered.
Astronomers accidentally discovered the traces of a monster galaxy in the early Universe that had never been seen before. Like a cosmic yeti, the scientific community generally regarded these galaxies as folklore in the face of the lack of evidence for their existence, but astronomers in the United States and Australia managed to get a picture of the animal for the first time.
Published today (October 22, 201
Astronomer Christina Williams of the University of Arizona, lead author of In the study, became a faint spot in new sensitive observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter Array or ALMA a collection of 66 radio telescopes high in the Chilean mountains , detected. Strangely enough, the shimmer seemed to come out of nowhere, like a ghostly step in a vast dark wilderness.
"It was very mysterious because the light did not seem to be connected to a known galaxy," Williams said. a postdoctoral fellow of the National Science Foundation at the Steward Observatory. "When I saw that this galaxy was invisible at any other wavelength, I was very excited because it meant that it was probably very far away and obscured by clouds of dust."
The Researchers estimate that the signal came from so far that it took 12.5 billion years to reach Earth, giving us a glimpse of the universe in its infancy. They believe that the observed emission is caused by the warm glow of dust particles heated by stars forming deep in a young galaxy. The huge dust clouds hide the light of the stars themselves and make the galaxy completely invisible.
The co-author of the study, Ivo Labbé, from Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia, said: "We found out that the galaxy is actually a huge monster galaxy with as many stars as our Milky Way but fuller Activity that makes new stars at 100 times the speed of our own galaxy. "
The discovery could solve a long-standing discovery issue in astronomy, the authors said. Recent studies have shown that some of the largest galaxies in the young universe grew up extremely fast, a result that is theoretically not understood. Massive mature galaxies were seen when the universe was just a cosmic toddler in 10% of its present age. Even more puzzling is that these mature galaxies seem to come out of nowhere: astronomers never seem to catch them as they form.
Smaller galaxies were seen in the early Universe with the Hubble Space Telescope. But such creatures do not grow fast enough to solve the puzzle. Other monster galaxies have been reported, but these sightings were far too rare for a satisfactory explanation.
"Our hidden monster galaxy has just the right ingredients to be that missing link," explains Williams, "because they're probably much more common.
An open question is exactly how many of them exist. The observations for the current study were made in a tiny part of the sky, less than 1/100 of the disk of the full moon. Like the Yeti, finding traces of the mythical creature in a tiny strip of wilderness would be either a sign of incredible luck or a sign that monsters literally lurk everywhere.
Williams said researchers are looking forward to NASA's planned launch in March 2021 of the James Webb Space Telescope to further investigate these objects.
"JWST will be able to peer through the veil of dust to see how large these galaxies actually are and how fast they grow to better understand why models fail them. "
But right now the monsters are out there, wrapped in dust and full of secrets.
Reference: "Discovery of a dark, massive, ALMA-pure galaxy at z ~ 5-6 in a small 3-mm survey" by Christina C. Williams, Ivo Labbe, Justin Spilker, Mauro Stefanon, Joel Leja, Katherine Whitaker, Rachel Bezanson, Desika Narayanan, Pascal Oesch and Benjamin Weiner, October 22, 2019, Astrophysical Journal .
DOI: 10.3847 / 1538-4357 / ab44aa
The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.