Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Early Galaxies Were Ahead Of Their Time
by Staff Writers
London, UK (SPX) Apr 22, 2013

The galaxy "HFLS3" was found initially as a small red dot in Herschel submillimeter images (main image, and panels on right). Subsequent observations with ground-based telescopes, ranging from optical to millimeter-wave (insets) showed that there are two galaxies appearing very close together. They are at very different distances, however, with one of them, seen in millimeter-wave (inset, blue) being so distant that we are seeing it as it was when the universe was just 880 million years old, and was forming stars 1000 times faster than our Milky Way galaxy. ESA/Herschel/HerMES/IRAM/GTC/W. M. Keck Observatory.

Astronomers using Europe's Herschel Space Observatory have discovered a distant galaxy that challenges the current theories of galaxy evolution. Seen when the universe was less than a billion years old, it is forming stars at a much faster rate than should be possible according to existing predictions.

This particular galaxy, known only as "HFLS3," is so distant that the light we see has taken 13 billion years to get to Earth. We see it as it was when the universe was only 880 million years old, long before current theories of galaxy evolution predict that such a galaxy should have existed. In the infant Universe, galaxies should have been forming stars at a much slower rate than is observed in HFLS3.

Herschel has been surveying the distant cosmos, finding hundreds of thousands of distant galaxies. By looking at sub-millimeter light, Herschel is revealing how fast these distant galaxies are forming stars, and by determining the ages of the galaxies, astronomers are building up a cosmic timeline of star formation, searching for when the first massive galaxies started churning out stars.

"Looking for the first examples of these massive star factories is like searching for a needle in the haystack," says Dominik Riechers, Cornell University, who led the investigation. "We were hoping to find a galaxy at such vast distances, but we could not expect that they even existed that early on in the universe."

The galaxy "HFLS3" was seen as a small red dot in the Herschel images, and its color is what first intrigued the team. "This galaxy gained our attention because it was bright, yet very red, compared to others like it," says Dave Clements, Imperial College London. "But while Herschel is great at highlighting these galaxies, we need to use other telescope to investigate further," he adds.

The first step was to rule out any other effects that could cause the galaxy to look so bright. Using optical and near-infrared telescope, such as the Gran Telescopio Canarias in the Canary Islands and the Keck Telescope in Hawaii, the faint light from a much closer galaxy was seen. Although it lies in almost the same place in the sky, this relatively nearby imposter could not account for the brightness of HFLS3 in the Herschel images.

It was observations with radio and millimeter-wave telescopes, such as the Plateau de Bure Interferometer in the French Alps, which determined that this tiny galaxy, only around one twentieth the size of our Milky Way, is seen at such an immense distance. These additional observations also showed that HFLS3 is incredibly rich in carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, forming compounds such as carbon monoxide, water and ammonia.

"The stars being born in HFLS3 heat up the surrounding material within the galaxy.," explained Peter Hurley, University of Sussex. "This material contains gas molecules such as carbon monoxide and water, which emit their own unique signatures when heated. By comparing the observations with models, we can gain a better understanding of the conditions within this extreme object."

Combined with the Herschel observations, these measurements allow the astronomers to deduce that this tiny star factory is producing stars around two thousand times faster than our own Milky Way, making it a type of galaxy known as a "starburst". Environments like this do not exist on galaxy-wide scales in the universe today.

"This galaxy is just one spectacular example, but it's telling us that early star formation like this is possible," explains Jamie Bock, Caltech, and one of the leaders of HerMES survey which originally found this galaxy.

"We've shown that Herschel data can find these extreme examples," says Seb Oliver, University of Sussex, and the other leader HerMES. "The next step is to sift through the Herschel data more carefully, and try to deduce just how common such galaxies were in the early universe," he concludes.

"A Dust-Obscured Massive Maximum-Starburst Galaxy at a Redshift of 6.34" by D. Riechers et al. (2013), Nature; UK-based authors are Peter Hurley, Seb Oliver, Isaac Roseboom, Anthony Smith, Lingyu Wang (University of Sussex); Dave Clements, Ashley Hyde (Imperial College London); Rob Ivison, Edo Ibar (UK Astronomy Technology Center); Vinodiran Arumugam, James Dunlop, Alasdair Thomson (University of Edinburgh); Scott Chapman, Eduardo Gonzalez Solares (University of Cambridge); Mat Page (Mullard Space Science Laboratory).


Related Links
UK Space Agency
Understanding Time and Space

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Green Pea galaxies could help astronomers understand early universe
Ann Arbor MI (SPX) Apr 04, 2013
The rare Green Pea galaxies discovered by the general public in 2007 could help confirm astronomers' understanding of reionization, a pivotal stage in the evolution of the early universe, say University of Michigan researchers. Reionization occurred a few hundred million years after the Big Bang as the first stars were turning on and forming the first galaxies. During this period, the spac ... read more

Characterizing The Lunar Radiation Environment

Russia rekindles Moon exploration program, intends setting up first human outposts there

Pre-existing mineralogy may survive lunar impacts

Lunar cycle determines hunting behaviour of nocturnal gulls

Accurate pointing by Curiosity

NASA Mars Orbiter Images May Show 1971 Soviet Lander

Opportunity is in position for solar conjunction at 'Cape York' on the rim of Endeavour Crater

NASA spacecraft may have spotted pieces of Soviet spacecraft on Mars

What makes a good astronaut?

NASA urged to preserve funding for planetary science missions

Testing Spacesuits in Antarctica, part 1

Obama's budget would boost science, health

Yuanwang III, VI depart for space-tracking missions

Shenzhou's Shadow Crew

Shenzhou 10 sent to launch site

China's Next Women Astronauts

Full tank, please For ATV Einstein

Russia puts mice, newts in space for a month

Cosmonaut becomes oldest person to walk in space, Russia ministry says

Mice "crew" of the Russian space satellite having troubles

NASA Seeks Innovative Suborbital Flight Technology Proposals

Stephane Israel named Chairman and CEO of Arianespace

Launch pad problem scrubs launch of Antares rocket for NASA

ILS Proton Launches Anik G1 for Telesat

Notre Dame astrophysicist discovers 5-planet system like Earth

Five-Planet System With Most Earth-Like Exoplanet Yet Found

New Techniques Allow Discovery Of Smallest Super-Earth Exoplanets

Kepler Finds Two Water Worlds 1200 Lights Years Away

Softening steel problem expands computer model applications

New material gets itself into shape

For the very first time, two spacecraft will fly in formation with millimeter precision

High pressure gold nanocrystal structure revealed

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement