Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Spitzer Space Telescope pinpoints elusive but violent starbursts

20.07.2004


A major breakthrough in pinpointing some of the most primordial and violently star forming galaxies in the Universe has been made by a joint collaboration of UK and US astronomers using the Spitzer Space Telescope to resolve primordial galaxies initially detected by the James Clerk Maxwell telescope [JCMT]. UK astronomers from the University of Kent, The Royal Observatory Edinburgh and the University of Oxford teamed up with American cosmologists to finally identify these elusive galaxies. The work will be published in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Spitzer Special Issue in September 2004.



Back in 1995, the UK’s SCUBA camera (Sub-millimetre Common User Bolometer Array) on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, which detects light with wavelengths just under a millimetre, began finding fuzzy traces of very distant, primordial galaxies. Some of these are either too distant or too dusty to be seen even by the Hubble Space Telescope. But SCUBA’s images on their own, and those of other similar cameras, are not fine enough: within the fuzzy SCUBA detections are sometimes many galaxies. So astronomers have spent enormous effort following up these SCUBA galaxies on other telescopes, particularly radio telescopes, to answer the question: which one is the primordial galaxy, and which ones are in the foreground? But even with the most sensitive radio telescope images ever made, only around half the SCUBA galaxies can be pinpointed unambiguously. Even worse, the radio telescopes miss all of the most distant and most primordial of SCUBA’s galaxies.

UK and US astronomers teamed up to combine Spitzer’s sharp images with SCUBA’s ability to find primordial galaxies. The team were stunned to find all the SCUBA galaxies in Spitzer’s field of view detected in only ten minutes with Spitzer. These breakthrough observations, described as a ‘watershed’ by the team, finally give astronomers a way of unambiguously pinpointing even the most distant of SCUBA’s galaxies. This could only be done by combining SCUBA with the Spitzer Space Telescope: SCUBA shows there is a primordial, violent starburst somewhere in the vicinity, which is then pinpointed by Spitzer.


At the same time, Spitzer solved another mystery about SCUBA galaxies. When Galileo first trained a telescope at the Milky Way, he was astonished to find the fuzzy light resolved into many individual stars. This is, in essence, what the team of astronomers have done with the diffuse extragalactic background light seen from all directions at a wavelength of about half a millimetre. By comparing the distinct Spitzer galaxies with the SCUBA data, the team discovered that they had identified the sources of this cosmic background for the first time. This background is caused by an important population of galaxies: most of the stars in the early Universe are created in these galaxies, and star formation is where everything comes from - including the material that makes planets like our own. Finding where this star formation happens tells us, in a sense, where we came from. Identifying most of these galaxies is a second coup for the joint UK/US team.

Dr Stephen Serjeant (University of Kent, UK) said, ‘Our Spitzer Space Telescope images picked our galaxies out astonishingly quickly, in only ten minutes, when the community has been pouring effort into detecting them. This really is pioneering work and a great triumph for the Spitzer Space Telescope and the UK’s SCUBA camera. To cap it all, at the same time we’ve found the galaxies that dominate the star formation in the early Universe. The Earth and everything on it is made from the dust created in stars like those – people, trees, beef burgers, the lot.’

Dr Rob Ivison (Royal Observatory Edinburgh, UK) said, ‘In 10 minutes, the Spitzer Space Telescope has managed to pinpoint the galaxies we have been chasing for 7 years. We can finally begin to sort the babies and teenagers of the galaxy world from the adults and senior citizens.’

Dr Hervé Dole (University of Arizona USA and IAS, Orsay, France) said, ‘These Spitzer observations were designed as the first joint survey using the MIPS and IRAC instruments on Spitzer, to assess the instrument sensitivities. As a matter of fact, it’s a great technological, operational and scientific success, overwhelming our wildest expectations. This demonstrates the amazing capabilities of Spitzer for studying galaxy evolution at high redshifts; no doubt that deeper and larger ongoing surveys will give even more exciting results!’

Dr Steve Willner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, USA) said, ‘We expected to detect one or a few of these galaxies, but I was stunned that we detected all of the ones we looked at. The new data finally tell us what these galaxies are all about. We’ve known all along that they had to be far away and rapidly turning all their gas into stars, but now we know their true distances and ages.’

Karen Baxter | alfa
Further information:
http://www.kent.ac.uk

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Electrocatalysis can advance green transition
23.01.2017 | Technical University of Denmark

nachricht Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin
23.01.2017 | Ferdinand-Braun-Institut Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik

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: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

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...

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

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>