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Astronomers look back 13 billion years and see how two galaxies collide

Artistic representation of the merging galaxies.
Figure: National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

Scientists may have discovered the farthest (and thus most recent) example

The research team in Japan observed a distant light source called B14-65666 with the Atacama Large Millimeter / Submillimeter array of telescopes in Chile. Higher-resolution data from the light emitted by oxygen and carbon ions suggests that the object is a single galaxy that rapidly forms new stars as a result of a collision.

Due to the fact that light has a very high speed of light farther in the distance, there is information about ever earlier times. The scientists therefore hope to retell the story of the universe, how it developed and what it looks like today by observing the most distant objects.

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Scientist Already familiar with B14-65666, an object we saw 13 billion years ago. Data from the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that it appeared to have two lobes separated by approximately 6,500 to 13,000 light-years – the Milky Way, our home galaxy, has a diameter of more than 100,000 light-years. A team led by Takuya Hashimoto, a postdoctoral fellow at the Japan Society for the Advancement of Science and Waseda University, took a closer look at the property during the nights of 2016, 2017 and 2018 with ALMA.

The researchers observed radiation emanating from certain carbon and oxygen ions, as well as radiation from dust. They confirmed that the object was actually organized into two groups and estimated the total mass of the object at 770 million times the mass of the Sun (which is many times less massive than our own Milky Way). They also predicted that each year about 200 solar masses would form with stars.

Image: NASA / ESA's Hubble Space Telescope, Hashimoto et al.

From this the researchers concluded that the object must be the result of the fusion of two smaller galaxies, resulting in a stellar explosion – a short time of star formation.

The galaxy is not only interesting for age. The fact that the researchers were able to detect the signal of dust as well as the specific oxygen and carbon spectral lines means that it could be a promising target for new telescope follow-up research. The researchers will try to look at spectral lines that also represent other elements to get an idea of ​​the type of matter that makes up the very early galaxy.

Scientists believe that fusions are an important part of galaxy formation. Seeing galaxies merge so far away and so far back in time gives this theory some credibility.

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