Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Was adolescent galaxy a gang member?

18.03.2002


Where’s the matter? MS1512-cB58 (arrowed) may be surrounded by it.
© ESO


Light bending reveals clumps of matter around early galaxy.

European astronomers have got their first glimpse of the soup of matter that surrounded a galaxy in the early Universe, just 3 billion years after the Big Bang. Their results provide clues as to how this matter got together, which is crucial to understanding why the Universe looks the way it does today1.

The 12-billion-year-old galaxy is called MS 1512-cB58. It is not the earliest galaxy known, but because of a cosmic coincidence it is by far the brightest of its vintage.



MS 1512-cB58’s light would be too weak to be seen but for a light-bending cluster of more recent galaxies lying between it and the Earth. This cluster magnifies MS 1512-cB58 - a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. "Without it we’d just see a normal galaxy very faintly," says Sandra Savaglio of the Rome Astronomical Observatory in Monteporzio, Italy.

Working with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile’s Atacama Desert, Savaglio’s team found that intervening clouds of dust and gas had scattered ultraviolet light from MS 1512-cB58, as it does all light from distant objects.

But their results suggest that there is a lot of material in the immediate environment of MS 1512-cB58 - possibly a gang of other galaxies. It could be more clouds of gas, but it may be a vast cluster of galaxies called a supercluster. "Where there is gas, there are probably stars and forming galaxies," says Savaglio.

This is crucial information to astronomers. They know that matter cooled and slowly clumped together after the Big Bang, forming stars and galaxies. But how much of this stuff there was, and how quickly it came together, is a mystery.

Savaglio’s results suggest that it happened relatively quickly. "If 12 billion years ago there were already clusters of clouds, it means that the Universe was in a very evolved state," she says.

Chuck Steidel, who studies galaxy formation at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, is cautious about drawing conclusions from measurements of a single galaxy. He views Savaglio’s findings rather as proof that galaxies can be used to do background surveys of matter in the Universe.

Unfortunately MS 1512-cB58 is the only galaxy that can be used to study the distribution of matter using today’s technology. Future telescopes - like the proposed Next Generation Space Telescope - may be able to probe the matter surrounding galaxies just as old without the help of a gravitational lens. This should make thousands of galaxies available for study.

Savaglio’s team bent over backwards to see the magnified galaxy. MS 1512-cB58 lies in the Earth’s northern skies, yet the VLT is in the south. There are northern telescopes more powerful than the VLT, but none is sensitive enough to the ultraviolet light that Savaglio’s team were looking for. So they pointed the telescope just above the horizon in the Chile’s northern sky to see MS 1512-cB58. "It was practically lying down," recalls Savaglio.

References

  1. Savaglio, S., Panagia, N. & Padovani, P. The Lya forest of a lyman break galaxy: Very Large Telescope spectra of MS 1512-cB58 at z=2.724. The Astrophysical Journal, 567, 702 - 711, (2002).

TOM CLARKE | © Nature News Service

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Comet or asteroid? Hubble discovers that a unique object is a binary
21.09.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht First users at European XFEL
21.09.2017 | European XFEL GmbH

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: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

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...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

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...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

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...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Comet or asteroid? Hubble discovers that a unique object is a binary

21.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cnidarians remotely control bacteria

21.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Monitoring the heart's mitochondria to predict cardiac arrest?

21.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>