The group of roughly 60 galaxies, called CLG J02182-05102, is nearly 10 billion years old — born just 4 billion years after the Big Bang. However, it's not the size nor the age of the cluster that amazes the team of researchers led by Dr. Casey Papovich, an assistant professor in the Texas A&M Department of Physics and Astronomy and member of the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy. Rather, it's the surprisingly modern appearance of CLG J02182-05102 that has them baffled — a huge, red collection of galaxies typical of only present-day galaxies.
"It's like we dug an archaeological site in Rome and found pieces of modern Rome amongst the ruins," explains Papovich, lead author of the team's study to be published in Astrophysical Journal.
While its neighboring galaxies appear vastly smaller and far fainter, Papovich says CLG J02182-05102 stands out as a densely-populated bundle of ancient galaxies. Enormous red galaxies at the center contain almost 10 times as many stars as our Milky Way, he notes, combining for a total size that rivals that of the most monstrous galaxies of our nearby universe.
Before now, Papovich says, such a finding would be considered by many astronomers to be highly unlikely, considering the time frame in which they were found.
"The predictions are that these things should be very rare when the universe was 4 billion years old, and yet, we found them," Papovich explains. "Not only did we find them, it looks for all intents and purposes like they had already formed completely and evolved into the large concentrations of galaxies that we see in clusters today."
Exactly why these particular galaxies are fully formed that early is what Papovich and his collaborators — which include astronomers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) as well as Carnegie Observatories — hope to one day uncover, but for now, studying CLG J02182-05102 could help them and other researchers better understand how galaxies form and cluster in general.
The find resulted from a project initiated two years ago when Papovich and his team observed an area of the sky that could encompass 250 full moons, the largest extragalactic survey of space ever made — the Spitzer Wide-area InfraRed Extragalctic (SWIRE) survey. The team focused on a cosmic region of the survey that previously had been observed by other instruments including Japan's Subaru telescope in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the European Space Agency's orbiting XMN-Newton telescope. This, combined with infrared data from the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope — also in Hawaii — and Spitzer's Public Ultra Deep Sky survey instantly revealed a number of distant galaxies.
It wasn't until Papovich's group studied faint light from CLG J02182-05102's least-dim galaxies that they were able to determine they had found a cluster that contained about 60 galaxies full of old, red stars, at a time when the universe was only 4 billion years old — about 30 percent of the universe's current age of 13.7 billion years. At this point in time, most other galaxies would still be forming their very first stars and certainly would not have congregated with other galaxies yet.
In essence, Papovich said the galaxies in CLG J02182-05102 must have subscribed to a "rock 'n' roll" lifestyle — they lived fast and died young. It's another mystery Papovich hopes to solve through deeper observations, including spectroscopy, with the Hubble Telescope later this year.
"That's one of the reasons this is so interesting," he adds. "It seems that they somehow had a premonition they would end up in these big clusters, so that's another thing we want to find out."
To learn more about the team's research as well as additional information regarding Texas A&M Astronomy, visit http://astronomy.tamu.edu.
For more information on NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, visit http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/.
About research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world's leading research institutions, Texas A&M is in the vanguard in making significant contributions to the storehouse of knowledge, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represents an annual investment of more than $582 million, which ranks third nationally for universities without a medical school, and underwrites approximately 3,500 sponsored projects. That research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting in many cases in economic benefits to the state, nation and world.
Contact: Chris Jarvis, (979) 845-7246 or email@example.com or Dr. Casey Papovich, (979) 862-2704 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Story includes contributions from Adam Hadhazy and NASA/JPL-Caltech.
For more news about Texas A&M University, go to http://tamunews.tamu.edu.
Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamutalk.
Keith Randall | EurekAlert!
Unconventional superconductor may be used to create quantum computers of the future
19.02.2018 | Chalmers University of Technology
Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm
16.02.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
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...
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...
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...
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...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.02.2018 | Life Sciences