In ongoing observations of one of the universe’s earliest, most distant cluster of galaxies using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, an international team of researchers led by Texas A&M’s Dr. Kim-Vy Tran has discovered that a significant fraction of those ancient galaxies are still actively forming stars.
Tran, an assistant professor in the Texas A&M Department of Physics and Astronomy and member of the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, and her team have spent the past four months analyzing images taken from the Multiband Imaging Photometer for Spitzer (MIPS), essentially looking back in time nearly 10 billion years at a high red-shift cluster known as CLG J02182-05102. Mere months after first discovering the cluster and the fact that it is shockingly “modern” in its appearance and size despite being observed just 4 billion years after the Big Bang, the Texas A&M-led team was able to determine that the galaxy cluster produces hundreds to thousands of new stars every year — a far higher birthrate than what is present in nearby galaxies.
What is particularly striking, according to Tran, is the fact that the stellar birthrate is higher in the cluster’s center than at the cluster’s edges — the exact opposite of what happens in our local portion of the universe, where the cores of galaxy clusters are known to be galactic graveyards full of massive elliptical galaxies composed of old stars.
“A well-established hallmark of galaxy evolution in action is how the fraction of star-forming galaxies decreases with increasing galaxy density,” explains Tran, lead author of the team’s study which appears in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. “In other words, there are more star-forming galaxies in the field than in the crowded cores of galaxy clusters. However, in our cluster, we find many galaxies with star-formation rates comparable to their cousins in the lower-density field environment.”
Exactly why this star power increases as galaxies become more crowded remains a mystery. Tran thinks the densely-populated surroundings could lead to galaxies triggering activity in one another, or that all galaxies were extremely active when the universe was young.
The group’s discovery holds potentially compelling implications that could ultimately reveal more about how such massive galaxies form. Observations of nearby galaxy clusters confirm that they are made of stars that are at least 8 to 10 billion years old, which means that CLG J02182-05102 is nearing the end of its hyperactive star-building period.
Now that they have pinpointed the epoch when galaxy clusters are making the last of their stars, astronomers can focus on understanding why massive assemblies of galaxies transition from very active to passive. Identifying how long it takes for galaxies in clusters to build up their stellar mass as well as the time at which they stop provides strong constraints for how these massive galaxies form.
“Our study shows that by looking farther into the distant universe, we have revealed the missing link between the active galaxies and the quiescent behemoths that live in the local universe,” Tran adds. “Our discovery indicates that future studies of galaxy clusters in this red-shift range should be particularly fruitful for understanding how these massive galaxies form as a function of their environment.”
Tran’s team includes fellow Texas A&M astronomer Dr. Casey Papovich, who first identified the galaxy cluster CLG J02182-05102 in May. The collection of roughly 60 galaxies is observed just 4 billion years after the Big Bang, making it the earliest cluster of galaxies ever detected. However, the team was struck not by its age, but by its astoundingly modern appearance — a huge, red collection of galaxies typical in only local clusters.
The fact that Tran’s team was able to see these active galaxies so far back in time (Tran likens their find to discovering that her mild-mannered grandparent had lived a fast and furious youth) is only the preface to what they expect eventually to learn about these clusters. Tran will continue to lead an international collaboration with Papovich and their postdoctoral researchers to examine these clusters more thoroughly and hopefully to understand why they are still so energetic.
“We will analyze new observations scheduled to be taken with the Hubble Space Telescope and Herschel Space Telescope to study these galaxies more carefully to understand why they are so active,” Tran adds. “We will also start looking at several more distant galaxy clusters to see if we find similar behavior.”
The team’s findings are detailed in their paper, “Reversal of Fortune: Confirmation of an Increasing Star Formation-Density Relation in a Cluster at z=1.62,” available online at http://iopscience.iop.org/2041-8205/719/2/L126/.
For or additional information on Texas A&M Astronomy, visit http://astronomy.tamu.edu.
NASA/JPL-Caltech Feature: http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/news/1172-feature10-14
Contact: Chris Jarvis, (979) 845-7246 or Dr. Kim-Vy Tran, (979) 862-2747
Dr. Kim-Vy Tran | EurekAlert!
Hope to discover sure signs of life on Mars? New research says look for the element vanadium
22.09.2017 | University of Kansas
22.09.2017 | Forschungszentrum MATHEON ECMath
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy