University of Nottingham PhD student Will Hartley, who led the study, will speak at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in Belfast on Tuesday 1 April.
The distant galaxies identified in the UKIRT images are considered elderly because they are rich in old, red stars. However, because the light from these systems has taken up to 10 billion years to reach Earth, they are seen as they appeared in the very early Universe, just 4 billion years after the Big Bang. The presence of such fully evolved galaxies so early in the life of the cosmos is hard to explain and has been a major puzzle to astronomers studying how galaxies form and evolve.
Hartley and collaborators used the deep UKIRT images to estimate the mass of the dark matter surrounding the old galaxies by measuring how strongly the galaxies cluster together. All galaxies are thought to form within massive halos of dark matter which collapse under their own gravity from a smooth distribution of matter after the Big Bang.
These halos are invisible to normal telescopes but their mass can be estimated through analysis of galaxy clustering.
Hartley explains "Luckily, even if we don't know what dark matter is, we can understand how gravity will affect it and make it clump together. We can see that the old, red galaxies clump together far more strongly than the young, blue galaxies, so we know that their invisible dark matter halos must be more massive.”
The halos surrounding the old galaxies in the early Universe are found to be extremely massive, containing material which is one hundred thousand billion times the mass of our Sun. In the nearby Universe, halos of this size are known to contain giant elliptical galaxies, the largest galaxies known.
"This provides a direct link to the present day Universe," says Hartley, "and tell us that these distant old galaxies must evolve into the most massive but more familiar elliptical-shaped galaxies we see around us today. Understanding how these enormous elliptical galaxies formed is one of the biggest open questions in modern astronomy and this is an important step in comprehending their history."
IMAGESImage of the elderly galaxies
FURTHER INFORMATIONThe UKIDSS Ultra-Deep Survey
Levitating objects with light
19.03.2019 | California Institute of Technology
19.03.2019 | Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam
The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.
A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...
New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum
For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...
Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock
Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...
Every year earthquakes worldwide claim hundreds or even thousands of lives. Forewarning allows people to head for safety and a matter of seconds could spell...
11.03.2019 | Event News
01.03.2019 | Event News
28.02.2019 | Event News
19.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
19.03.2019 | Life Sciences
19.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy