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 MEMS chips get metatlenses
21.02.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht International team publishes roadmap to enhance radioresistance for space colonization
21.02.2018 | Biogerontology Research Foundation

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: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers invent tiny, light-powered wires to modulate brain's electrical signals

21.02.2018 | Life Sciences

The “Holy Grail” of peptide chemistry: Making peptide active agents available orally

21.02.2018 | Life Sciences

Atomic structure of ultrasound material not what anyone expected

21.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>