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!
NASA mission surfs through waves in space to understand space weather
25.07.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
A new level of magnetic saturation
25.07.2017 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers
Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.
At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
25.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
25.07.2017 | Earth Sciences
25.07.2017 | Life Sciences