Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Hubble finds that “blue blobs” in space are orphaned clusters of stars

Hubble has revealed that mysterious "blue blobs" in a structure called Arp’s Loop between M81 and M82 are blue clusters of stars less than 200 million years old with many stars as young as, and even younger than, 10 million years.

Finding blue blobs in space sounds like an encounter with an alien out of a science fiction movie. But the powerful NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has resolved strange objects nicknamed "blobs" and found them to be brilliant blue clusters of stars born in the swirls and eddies of a galactic pile-up 200 million years ago.

The findings are reported by Duilia de Mello of the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. and her colleagues at the 211th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas, USA.

Such “blue blobs”- each weighing tens of thousands of solar masses -have never been seen in detail before in such sparse locations, say researchers. They are more massive than most open clusters found inside galaxies, but a fraction of the mass of globular star clusters that orbit a galaxy.

Because the orphan stars don’t belong to any particular galaxy, the heavier elements produced in their fusion furnaces may easily be expelled back into intergalactic space. This may offer clues as to how the early universe was “polluted” with heavier elements early in its history, say researchers.

The mystery is that the “blue blobs” are found along a wispy bridge of gas strung among three colliding galaxies, M81, M82, and NGC 3077, residing approximately 12 million light-years from Earth. This is not the place astronomers expect to find star clusters: in the "abyssal plain" of intergalactic space. “We could not believe it, the stars were in the middle of nowhere”, says de Mello.

The “blue blobs” are clumped together in a structure called Arp’s Loop, along the tenuous gas bridge. The gas filaments were considered too thin to accumulate enough material to actually build this many stars, says de Mello. But Hubble reveals the “blue blobs” contain the equivalent of five Orion Nebulae.

After finding that these “blobs” resolved into stars, the team used the Hubble image to measure an age for the clusters of less than 200 million years old with many stars as young as, and even younger than, 10 million years. Not coincidentally, 200 million years is the estimated age of the galactic collision that created the tidal gas streamers, pulled between the galaxies like candy floss.

De Mello and her team propose that the star clusters in this diffuse structure might have formed from gas collisions and the subsequent turbulence, which enhanced the density of the gas streams locally. Galaxy collisions were much more frequent in the early Universe, so “blue blobs” should have been common. After the stars burned out or exploded, the heavier elements forged in their nuclear furnaces would have been ejected to enrich intergalactic space.

Radio observations with the Very Large Array of radio telescopes in Socorro, New Mexico, USA, gave a detailed map of the intergalactic bridge that revealed knots of denser gas. Studies with the 3.5m WIYN telescope on Kitt Peak in Arizona, USA, mapped the optical light glow of hydrogen along the bridge. Observations with NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) ultraviolet space telescope revealed an ultraviolet glow at the knots, and that earned them the nickname “blue blobs”. But GALEX did not have the resolution to see individual stars or clusters. Only Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys at last revealed the point sources of the ultraviolet radiation.

Lars Christensen | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

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: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Seeking balanced networks: how neurons adjust their proteins during homeostatic scaling.

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

More VideoLinks >>>