Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cosmic Lens Reveals Distant Galactic Violence

22.10.2008
By cleverly unraveling the workings of a natural cosmic lens, astronomers have gained a rare glimpse of the violent assembly of a young galaxy in the early Universe. Their new picture suggests that the galaxy has collided with another, feeding a supermassive black hole and triggering a tremendous burst of star formation.

The astronomers used the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope to look at a galaxy more than 12 billion light-years from Earth, seen as it was when the Universe was only about 15 percent of its current age.

Between this galaxy and Earth lies another distant galaxy, so perfectly aligned along the line of sight that its gravity bends the light and radio waves from the farther object into a circle, or "Einstein Ring."

This gravitational lens made it possible for the scientists to learn details of the young, distant galaxy that would have been unobtainable otherwise.

"Nature provided us with a magnifying glass to peer into the workings of a nascent galaxy, providing an exciting look at the violent, messy process of building galaxies in the early history of the Universe," said Dominik Riechers, who led this project at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany and now is a Hubble Fellow at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

The new picture of the distant galaxy, dubbed PSS J2322+1944, shows a massive reservoir of gas, 16,000 light-years in diameter, that contains the raw material for building new stars. A supermassive black hole is voraciously eating material, and new stars are being born at the rate of nearly 700 Suns per year. By comparison, our Milky Way Galaxy produces the equivalent of about 3-4 Suns per year.

The black hole appears to be near the edge, rather than at the center, of the giant gas reservoir, indicating, the astronomers say, that the galaxy has merged with another.

"This whole picture, of massive galaxies and supermassive black holes assembling themselves through major galaxy mergers so early in the Universe, is a new paradigm in galaxy formation. This gravitationally lensed system allows us to see this process in unprecedented detail," said Chris Carilli, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

In 2003, astronomers studied PSS J2322+1944, finding the Einstein Ring by observing radio waves emitted by molecules of Carbon Monoxide (CO). When astronomers see large amounts of CO gas in a galaxy, they conclude that there also is a large amount of molecular Hydrogen present, and thus a large reservoir of fuel for star formation.

In the latest study, scientists painstakingly produced a physical model of the lensing intermediate galaxy. By knowing the mass, structure and orientation of this galaxy, they could then deduce the details of how it bends the light and radio waves from the more-distant galaxy. This allowed them to reconstruct a picture of the distant object. By doing this with multiple VLA images made at different radio frequencies, they were able to measure the motions of the gas in the distant galaxy.

"The lensing galaxy was, in effect, part of our telescope. By projecting backward through the lens, we determined the structure and dynamics of the galaxy behind it," said Fabian Walter of the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany.

PSS J2322+1944 was first discovered by George Djorgovski of Caltech, using the digitized Palomar Observatory Sky Survey. Later radio and optical studies showed that it had a huge reservoir of dust and molecular gas, and indicated gravitational lensing.

Gravitational lenses were predicted, based on Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, in 1919. Einstein himself showed in 1936 that a perfectly-aligned gravitational lens would produce a circular image, but felt that the chances of actually observing such an object were nearly zero. The first gravitational lens was discovered in 1979, and the first Einstein Ring was discovered by researchers using the VLA in 1987.

Riechers, Carilli, and Walter worked with Brendon Brewer and Geraint Lewis of the University of Sydney in Australia, Frank Bertoldi of the University of Bonn in Germany, and Pierre Cox of the Institute of Millimeter Radio Astronomy in France. The scientists reported their findings in the October 20 edition of the Astrophysical Journal.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

Dave Finley | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nrao.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Molecule flash mob
19.01.2017 | Technische Universität Wien

nachricht Magnetic moment of a single antiproton determined with greatest precision ever
19.01.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>