Latest Astronomy Finds from Hubble: Early Stars, Beast Galaxy

Published 09/18/2015 at 9:24 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff


(Manzanita, Oregon) - From the Oregon Coast Science Section: A host of new discoveries from NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes is helping us to understand more about the early years after the Big Bang - and it has found a new "beast" of a galaxy.

Astronomers from California recently learned much more about the first five million years after the Big Bang, by coming up with the as-yet most accurate statistical estimate of the number of faint, small galaxies that existed then.

Previous studies included images of "intra-halo light" from stars distributed outside of galaxies. The latest data from Hubble discovered an infrared component in the background - essentially the collective glow of whole galaxies that were among the first formed in the universe.

These early galaxies were markedly different, said astronomers from the University of California at Irvine (UCI). They were not well-defined spiral and disk-shaped like those we know today. Instead, they were diffuse and populated by massive stars.

This period of five million years after the Big Bang is known as the "epoch of reionization." It was typified by a lot of darkness, say scientists, partially because of photon-absorbing neutral hydrogen. About this time, the universe began moving to a re-ordering of hydrogen gas due to the accelerated process of star and galaxy formation.

Also with the help of Hubble, astronomers have found a galaxy cluster with an incredible amount of new stars. Calling it a “rare beast,” scientists suggests that behemoth galaxies at the cores of these massive clusters can grow significantly by feeding off gas stolen from other galaxies.

"Usually, the stars at the centers of galaxy clusters are old and dead, essentially fossils," said Tracy Webb of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, lead author of a new paper on the findings published in the Aug. 20 issue of The Astrophysical Journal. "But we think the giant galaxy at the center of this cluster is furiously making new stars after merging with a smaller galaxy."

Most galaxy clusters have a one gigantic galaxy in the middle that doesn't produce new stars very rapidly. This behemoth churns out about 860 new ones a year. For reference, our resident Milky Way makes only about one to two stars per year.

More of these NASA images and starscapes from the Oregon coast below:





 

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