Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Where did today’s spiral galaxies come from?

05.02.2010
Hubble shows that the beautiful spirals galaxies of the modern Universe were the ugly ducklings of six billion years ago.

If confirmed, the finding highlights the importance to many galaxies of collisions and mergers in the recent past. It also provides clues for the unique status of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

Using data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have created a census of galaxy types and shapes from a time before Earth and the Sun existed, up to the present day. The results show that, contrary to contemporary thought, more than half of the present-day spiral galaxies had peculiar shapes as recently as 6 billion years ago.

The study of the shapes and formation of galaxies, known as morphology, is a critical and much-debated topic in astronomy. An important tool for this is the ‘Hubble sequence’ or the ‘Hubble tuning-fork diagram’, a classification scheme invented in 1926 by the same Edwin Hubble in whose honour the space telescope is named.

Hubble’s scheme divides regular galaxies into three broad classes — ellipticals, lenticulars and spirals — based on their visual appearance. A fourth class contains galaxies with an irregular appearance.

A team of European astronomers led by François Hammer of the Observatoire de Paris has, for the first time, completed a census of galaxy types at two different points in the Universe’s history — in effect, creating two Hubble sequences — that help explain how galaxies form. In this survey, researchers sampled 116 local galaxies and 148 distant galaxies.

The astronomers show that the Hubble sequence six billion years ago was very different from the one that astronomers see today. “Six billion years ago, there were many more peculiar galaxies than now – a very surprising result,” says Rodney Delgado-Serrano, lead author of the related paper recently published in Astronomy & Astrophysics. “This means that in the last six billion years, these peculiar galaxies must have become normal spirals, giving us a more dramatic picture of the recent Universe than we had before.”

The astronomers think that these peculiar galaxies did indeed become spirals through collisions and merging. Although it was commonly believed that galaxy mergers decreased significantly eight billion years ago, the new result implies that mergers were still occurring frequently after that time — up to as recently as four billion years ago. “Our aim was to find a scenario that would connect the current picture of the Universe with the morphologies of distant, older galaxies — to find the right fit for this puzzling view of galaxy evolution,” says Hammer.

Also contrary to the widely held opinion that galaxy mergers result in the formation of elliptical galaxies, Hammer and his team support a scenario in which these cosmic clashes result in spiral galaxies. In a parallel paper published in Astronomy & Astrophysics, they delve further into their ‘spiral rebuilding’ hypothesis, which proposes that peculiar galaxies affected by gas-rich mergers are slowly reborn as giant spirals with discs and central bulges.

Although our own Galaxy is a spiral galaxy, it seems to have been spared much of the drama; its formation history has been rather quiet and it has avoided violent collisions in astronomically recent times. However, the large Andromeda Galaxy from our neighbourhood has not been so lucky and fits well into the ‘spiral rebuilding’ scenario. Researchers continue to seek explanations for this.


Notes for editors:

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

Hammer and his team used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey undertaken by Apache Point Observatory, New Mexico, USA, and from the GOODS field and Hubble Ultra Deep Field taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard Hubble.

R. Delgado-Serrano, et al., 2010, How was the Hubble Sequence 6 Giga-years ago? Astronomy & Astrophysics, 509, A78.

F. Hammer et al., 2009, The Hubble Sequence: just a vestige of merger events? Astronomy & Astrophysics, 507, 1313.


For more information:

Colleen Sharkey, Hubble/ESA, Garching, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6306
Cell: +49 151 153 735 91
Email: csharkey@eso.org
François Hammer, GEPI – Observatoire de Paris/CNRS and the Université Paris-Diderot
Tel: + 33 1 45 07 74 08
Email: francois.hammer@obspm.fr

Colleen Sharkey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.eso.org
http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEMW6HVJ15G_index_0.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Molecule flash mob
19.01.2017 | Technische Universität Wien

nachricht Magnetic moment of a single antiproton determined with greatest precision ever
19.01.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

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: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>