In a random sky survey made in near-infrared light, Hubble found five tiny galaxies clustered together 13.1 billion light-years away. They are among the brightest galaxies at that epoch and very young -- existing just 600 million years after the big bang.
The composite image taken in visible and near-infrared light, reveals the location of five tiny galaxies clustered together 13.1 billion light-years away. The circles pinpoint the galaxies. Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Trenti (University of Colorado, Boulder and Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, U.K.), L. Bradley (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore), and the BoRG team
Galaxy clusters are the largest structures in the universe, comprising hundreds to thousands of galaxies bound together by gravity. The developing cluster, or protocluster, is seen as it looked 13 billion years ago. Presumably, it has grown into one of today's massive galactic cities, comparable to the nearby Virgo cluster of more than 2,000 galaxies.
"These galaxies formed during the earliest stages of galaxy assembly, when galaxies had just started to cluster together," said Michele Trenti of the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. "The result confirms our theoretical understanding of the buildup of galaxy clusters. And, Hubble is just powerful enough to find the first examples of them at this distance."
Trenti presented the results today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas. The study will be published in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
Most galaxies in the universe reside in groups and clusters, and astronomers have probed many mature galactic cities in detail as far as 11 billion light-years away. Finding clusters in the early phases of construction has been challenging because they are rare, dim and widely scattered across the sky.
"We need to look in many different areas because the odds of finding something this rare are very small," said Trenti, who used Hubble's sharp-eyed Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) to pinpoint the cluster galaxies. "The search is hit and miss. Typically, a region has nothing, but if we hit the right spot, we can find multiple galaxies."
Hubble’s observations demonstrate the progressive buildup of galaxies. They also provide further support for the hierarchical model of galaxy assembly, in which small objects accrete mass, or merge, to form bigger objects over a smooth and steady but dramatic process of collision and collection.
Because the distant, fledgling clusters are so dim, the team hunted for the systems' brightest galaxies. These galaxies act as billboards, advertising cluster construction zones. From computer simulations, the astronomers expect galaxies at early epochs to be clustered together. Because brightness correlates with mass, the most luminous galaxies pinpoint the location of developing clusters. These powerful light beacons live in deep wells of dark matter, an invisible form of matter that makes up the underlying gravitational scaffolding for construction. The team expects many fainter galaxies that were not seen in these observations to inhabit the same neighborhood.
The five bright galaxies spotted by Hubble are about one-half to one-tenth the size of our Milky Way, yet are comparable in brightness. The galaxies are bright and massive because they are being fed large amounts of gas through mergers with other galaxies. The team's simulations show that the galaxies eventually will merge and form the brightest central galaxy in the cluster, a giant elliptical similar to the Virgo Cluster's M87.
The observations are part of the Brightest of Reionizing Galaxies survey, which uses Hubble's WFC3 to search for the brightest galaxies around 13 billion years ago, when light from the first stars burned off a fog of cold hydrogen in a process called reionization.
The team estimated the distance to the newly found galaxies based on their colors, but the astronomers plan to follow up with spectroscopic observations, which measure the expansion of space. Those observations will help astronomers precisely calculate the cluster's distance and yield the velocities of the galaxies, which will show whether they are gravitationally bound to each other.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.Trent J. Perrotto
When helium behaves like a black hole
22.03.2017 | University of Vermont
Astronomers hazard a ride in a 'drifting carousel' to understand pulsating stars
22.03.2017 | International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences