The comet-like tail was observed in X-ray light with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and in optical light with the Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) telescope in Chile. The feature extends for more than 200,000 light years and was created as gas was stripped from a galaxy called ESO 137-001 that is plunging toward the center of Abell 3627, a giant cluster of galaxies.
"This is one of the longest tails like this we have ever seen," said Ming Sun of Michigan State University, who led the study. "And, it turns out that this is a giant wake of creation, not of destruction."
The observations indicate that the gas in the tail has formed millions of stars. Because the large amounts of gas and dust needed to form stars are typically found only within galaxies, astronomers have previously thought it unlikely that large numbers of stars would form outside a galaxy.
"This isn't the first time that stars have been seen to form between galaxies," said team member Megan Donahue, also of MSU. "But the number of stars forming here is unprecedented."
The evidence for star formation in this tail includes 29 regions of ionized hydrogen glowing in optical light, thought to be from newly formed stars. These regions are all downstream of the galaxy, located in or near the tail. Two Chandra X-ray sources are near these regions, another indication of star formation activity. The researchers believe the orphan stars formed within the last 10 million years or so.
The stars in the tail of this fast-moving galaxy, which is some 220 million light years away, would be much more isolated than the vast majority of stars in galaxies.
"By our galactic standards, these are extremely lonely stars," said Mark Voit, another team member from MSU. "If life was to form out there on a planet a few billion years from now, they would have very dark skies."
The gas that formed the orphan stars was stripped out of its parent galaxy by the pressure induced by the motion of the galaxy through the multimillion degree gas that pervades the intergalactic space of the galaxy cluster. Eventually most of the gas will be scoured from the galaxy, depleting the raw material for new stars, and effectively stopping further star formation in the galaxy.
This process may represent an important but short-lived stage in the transformation of a galaxy. Although apparently rare in the present-day universe, galactic tails of gas and orphan stars may have been more common billions of years ago when galaxies were younger and richer in star-forming gas.
Megan Watzke | EurekAlert!
Basque researchers turn light upside down
23.02.2018 | Elhuyar Fundazioa
Attoseconds break into atomic interior
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik
A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...
A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.
By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
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...
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...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy