Astronomers report most 'outrageously' luminous galaxies ever observed

March 22, 2016
The 50-meter diameter Large Millimeter Telescope is the largest, most sensitive single-aperture instrument in the world for studying star formation. Operated jointly by UMass Amherst and Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica, it was recently used to observe the most luminous galaxies ever seen. Credit: UMass Amherst/Smith College/James Lowenthal

Astronomers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst report that they have observed the most luminous galaxies ever seen in the Universe, objects so bright that established descriptors such as "ultra-" and "hyper-luminous" used to describe previously brightest known galaxies don't even come close. Lead author and undergraduate Kevin Harrington says, "We've taken to calling them 'outrageously luminous' among ourselves, because there is no scientific term to apply."

Details appear in the current early online edition of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Harrington is a senior undergraduate in astronomy professor Min Yun's group, which uses the 50-meter diameter Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT), the largest, most sensitive single-aperture instrument in the world for studying star formation. It is operated jointly by UMass Amherst and Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica and is located on the summit of Sierra Negra, a 15,000-foot extinct volcano in the central state of Puebla, a companion peak to Mexico's highest mountain.

Yun, Harrington and colleagues also used the latest generation of satellite telescope and a cosmology experiment on the NASA/ESA collaboration Planck satellite that detects the glow of the Big Bang and microwave background for this work. They estimate that the newly observed galaxies they identified are about 10 billion years old and were formed only about 4 billion years after the Big Bang.

Harrington explains that in categorizing luminous sources, astronomers call an infrared galaxy "ultra-luminous" when it has a rating of about 1 trillion solar luminosities, and that rises to about 10 trillion solar luminosities at the "hyper-luminous" level. Beyond that, for the 100 trillion solar luminosities range of the new objects, "we don't even have a name," he says.

Yun adds, "The galaxies we found were not predicted by theory to exist; they're too big and too bright, so no one really looked for them before." Discovering them will help astronomers understand more about the early Universe. "Knowing that they really do exist and how much they have grown in the first 4 billion years since the Big Bang helps us estimate how much material was there for them to work with. Their existence teaches us about the process of collecting matter and of galaxy formation. They suggest that this process is more complex than many people thought."

The newly observed galaxies are not as large as they appear, the researchers point out. Follow-up studies suggest that their extreme brightness arises from a phenomenon called that magnifies light passing near massive objects, as predicted by Einstein's general relativity. As a result, from Earth they look about 10 times brighter than they really are. Even so, they are impressive, Yun says.

Gravitational lensing of a distant galaxy by another galaxy is quite rare, he adds, so finding as many as eight potential lensed objects as part of this investigation "is another potentially important discovery." Harrington points out that discovering gravitational lensing is already like finding a needle in a haystack, because it requires a precise alignment from viewing on Earth. "On top of that, finding lensed sources this bright is as rare as finding the hole in the needle in the haystack."

They also conducted analyses to show that the galaxies' brightness is most likely due solely to their amazingly high rate of . "The Milky Way produces a few solar masses of stars per year, and these objects look like they forming one star every hour," Yun says. Harrington adds, "We still don't know how many tens to hundreds of solar masses of gas can be converted into stars so efficiently in these objects, and studying these objects might help us to find out."

For this work, the team used data from the most powerful international facilities available today to achieve these discoveries, the Planck Surveyor, the Herschel, and the LMT. As Yun explains, the all-sky coverage of the Planck is the only way to find these rare but exceptional objects, but the much higher resolutions of the Herschel and the LMT are needed to pinpoint their exact locations.

He suggests, "If the Planck says there's an object of interest in Boston, the Herschel and LMT have the precision to say that the object is on which table in a particular bar next to Fenway Park." With this information, another LMT instrument called "Redshift Search Receiver" can be deployed to determine how far away and how old these galaxies are and how much gas they contain to sustain their extreme luminosities.

One other aspect of this project is extraordinary, Yun says. "For an undergrad to do this kind of study is really impressive. In 15 years of teaching, I have seen only a few undergraduates who pushed a project to the point of publishing in a major journal article such as this. Kevin deserves a lot of credit for this work."

For his part, Harrington, who will graduate in May with a double major in astronomy and neuroscience, says he plans to start his doctoral work in September at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and the University of Bonn, continuing this research on galaxy evolution.

Explore further: Imaging lensed, distant galaxies with the large millimeter telescope

More information: K. C. Harrington et al. Early Science with the Large Millimeter Telescope: Observations of Extremely Luminous High-z Sources Identified by , Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2016). DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stw614 , arxiv.org/abs/1603.05622

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HannesAlfven
2.1 / 5 (14) Mar 22, 2016
Re: "Their existence teaches us about the process of collecting matter and of galaxy formation."

You can't tell somebody what an observation teaches them. If you ask them, they might tell YOU.

In this case, what it teaches me is that redshift does not mindlessly equate to distance.
ROBTHEGOB
2.5 / 5 (19) Mar 23, 2016
There was no Big Bang. Get over it.
Tuxford
1.9 / 5 (13) Mar 23, 2016
There was no Big Bang. Get over it.

Yep, like I have been saying...
They also conducted analyses to show that the galaxies' brightness is most likely due solely to their amazingly high rate of star formation. "The Milky Way produces a few solar masses of stars per year, and these objects look like they forming one star every hour,"

Again, the likely explanation, however inconvenient, is that new matter is formed from within the super-active core, spitting out a sun's worth of new matter entering our observable universe every hour! Never mind what the math fairies preach about merger mania, follow the observations. Then try to figure how this is possible. This will lead to a greater understanding.
Bigbangcon
1.9 / 5 (9) Mar 23, 2016
In this case, what it teaches me is that redshift does not mindlessly equate to distance.


Chip Arp (the Galileo of modern times) must be smiling in his grave!
Hat1208
4 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2016
@Tuxford

Why does more stars equate to more matter?
bschott
2.1 / 5 (7) Mar 23, 2016
Why does more stars equate to more matter?


Stars are composed of matter.

obama_socks
5 / 5 (1) Mar 23, 2016
Why does more stars equate to more matter?


Stars are composed of matter.

- bschott
True. This also means that matter/energy, as far as we know, are no longer being created, but the existing matter/energy can only have the capability of changing from one to the other and back again an infinite number of times. Thus stars are made. This is good. If it had been otherwise and an unlimited amount of matter/energy could be created, the Universe as we know it would be quite different, where the vast spaces where no matter are thought to exist would have been filled in already. That's not to say that it isn't happening, but where would that extra matter/energy be coming from? AND HOW was it created? We just don't know enough to answer these questions.
Tuxford
2.1 / 5 (7) Mar 23, 2016
Re: "Their existence teaches us about the process of collecting matter and of galaxy formation."

You can't tell somebody what an observation teaches them. If you ask them, they might tell YOU.

In this case, what it teaches me is that redshift does not mindlessly equate to distance.


You can't teach a merger maniac at all... This is now obvious.
Tuxford
1.8 / 5 (6) Mar 23, 2016
Why does more stars equate to more matter?


Stars are composed of matter.

- bschott
True. This also means that matter/energy, as far as we know, are no longer being created, but the existing matter/energy can only have the capability of changing from one to the other and back again an infinite number of times. Thus stars are made. This is good. If it had been otherwise and an unlimited amount of matter/energy could be created, the Universe as we know it would be quite different, where the vast spaces where no matter are thought to exist would have been filled in already. That's not to say that it isn't happening, but where would that extra matter/energy be coming from? AND HOW was it created? We just don't know enough to answer these questions.


'Where from AND HOW?' I am not included in your 'We'. Matter and energy enter our universe constantly. Fortunately, the universe is a big place. And there may exist an exit that I am not aware of yet.
Hat1208
4.9 / 5 (7) Mar 23, 2016
@Tuxford

That has to be the stupidest thing I have ever read. Something from nothing! And you rail against the big bangers and their magic dust and hocus poke us. WTF!
obama_socks
not rated yet Mar 23, 2016
Why does more stars equate to more matter?


Stars are composed of matter.

- bschott
True. This also means that matter/energy, as far as we know, are no longer being created, but the existing matter/energy can only have the capability of changing from one to the other and back again(...) If it had been otherwise and an unlimited amount of matter/energy could be created, the Universe as we know it would be quite different, where the vast spaces where no matter are thought to exist would have been filled in already. That's not to say that it isn't happening, but where would that extra matter/energy be coming from? AND HOW was it created? We just don't know(...).


(...) Matter and energy enter our universe constantly. Fortunately, the universe is a big place. And there may exist an exit that I am not aware of yet.
- Tux
Constantly? From where? How? Is there someone creating it? Is it from___? Are you privy re mysteries of the Universe?
obama_socks
not rated yet Mar 23, 2016
Boy, I wish I had your ability to know how, when and where brand new and pristine matter/energy is coming from.
If there was an exit, what would be beyond that exit. And IF there was one, wouldn't it follow that all matter/energy would eventually fall through that exit into....where?
Tuxford
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 23, 2016
Constantly? From where? How? Is there someone creating it? Is it from___? Are you privy re mysteries of the Universe..

If you really want to know, you will have to study SubQuantum Kinectics from LaViolette and study. It took me a year to become convinced. But I was already well-versed in control systems engineering, so it made both intuitive and rational sense eventually.

From my aerospace engineering background, I know most are lost to this science. Most likely you are too lazy to think different. Enjoy the mania. No way to teach the details here. I would rather teach French to a poodle.
Tuxford
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 23, 2016
Boy, I wish I had your ability to know how, when and where brand new and pristine matter/energy is coming from.
If there was an exit, what would be beyond that exit. And IF there was one, wouldn't it follow that all matter/energy would eventually fall through that exit into....where?


Ah, that is the mystery. The answer, is certainly, to right here all around, exactly where it came from! And maybe it is somehow recycled. SQK is not developed that far. Get after it!
obama_socks
not rated yet Mar 23, 2016
Boy, I wish I had your ability to know how, when and where brand new and pristine matter/energy is coming from.
If there was an exit, what would be beyond that exit. And IF there was one, wouldn't it follow that all matter/energy would eventually fall through that exit into....where?


Ah, that is the mystery. The answer, is certainly, to right here all around, exactly where it came from! And maybe it is somehow recycled. SQK is not developed that far. Get after it!
- Tux
So you're saying that all matter/energy would eventually fall right back into from whence it came? But then what would be the point in having an exit at all?
That concept reminds me of the fictional story, "__And He Built A Crooked House" by Robert A. Heinlein. The Tesseract House that fell in on itself due to an earthquake, where if you left one room, you would find yourself back in the same room. LOL A Paradox indeed!!
But God only knows, if you don't mind my saying so.
:)

Zorcon
5 / 5 (5) Mar 23, 2016
Why does more stars equate to more matter?


Stars are composed of matter.


Continuing with bschott's logic:

Toasters are composed of matter.
The Moon is heavier than my house.
Therefore, the Moon contains more toasters than my house does.

obama_socks
1 / 5 (2) Mar 23, 2016
@Zorcon
Let me guess. You and bschott roomed together in college. Is that correct?
LOL

@ Tuxford
I am still reading about the Electric Universe theory. While it is interesting, the more traditional one has its merits also. Add to that String Theory and others.
My wife is calling me for lunch, so I'll try to stop by later.
EnsignFlandry
5 / 5 (8) Mar 23, 2016
Constantly? From where? How? Is there someone creating it? Is it from___? Are you privy re mysteries of the Universe..

If you really want to know, you will have to study SubQuantum Kinectics from LaViolette and study. It took me a year to become convinced. But I was already well-versed in control systems engineering, so it made both intuitive and rational sense eventually.

From my aerospace engineering background, I know most are lost to this science. Most likely you are too lazy to think different. Enjoy the mania. No way to teach the details here. I would rather teach French to a poodle.


There is no such subject as SubQuantum Kinectics(sic).
EnsignFlandry
4.2 / 5 (10) Mar 23, 2016
You can't tell somebody what an observation teaches them. If you ask them, they might tell YOU.

In this case, what it teaches me is that redshift does not mindlessly equate to distance.


Of course redshift does not "mindlessly equate to distance". Astronomers are well aware of the problems in using the redshift, or blueshift, to estimate distance. They are almost as smart as you.
Da Schneib
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 23, 2016
Yet more data to cull theories of galaxy formation. Good stuff here. Whenever we push the envelope of biggest, brightest, most massive, etc., we're constraining the models, and the more we constrain them the better the ones that are left are.
bschott
3 / 5 (6) Mar 24, 2016
Why does more stars equate to more matter?


Stars are composed of matter.


Continuing with bschott's logic:

Toasters are composed of matter.
The Moon is heavier than my house.
Therefore, the Moon contains more toasters than my house does.



Answer a stupid question that never should have been asked....find an idiot to back the asker.

Continuing with Zorcons logic: shit is made of matter, so is Zorcons brain, therefore Zorcon has shit for brains.

HEY!!! It does work!
HannesAlfven
2.5 / 5 (8) Mar 24, 2016
Re: "Of course redshift does not "mindlessly equate to distance". Astronomers are well aware of the problems in using the redshift, or blueshift, to estimate distance. They are almost as smart as you."

Your invitation to have faith in modern science does not actually resolve this ridiculous claim of ridiculously-luminous galaxies.
obama_socks
1 / 5 (2) Mar 24, 2016
"They estimate that the newly observed galaxies they identified are about 10 billion years old…"
"…for the 100 trillion solar luminosities range of the new objects, "we don't even have a name," he says."
then goes on to say - "The galaxies we found were not predicted by theory to exist; they're too big and too bright…"
and then it says - "The newly observed galaxies are not as large as they appear, the researchers point out. Follow-up studies suggest that their extreme brightness arises from a phenomenon called gravitational lensing that magnifies light passing near massive objects, as predicted by Einstein's general relativity. As a result, from Earth they look about 10 times brighter than they really are."
Follow-up studies? Then why didn't the article say that in the first place? So in fact, there is no 100 TRILLION SOLAR LUMINOSITIES and it's all smoke & mirrors - a trick caused by "gravitational lensing".
Phys1
4.1 / 5 (9) Mar 25, 2016
@HA
If you have a case against the redshift distance relation, go ahead.
But you don't, so your claim that it is based on faith is just a smoke screen.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (6) Mar 25, 2016
Worth noting that the redshift distance relation conforms fairly closely to the Type IA supernova distance relation. The amount of difference between them which introduced dark energy theories is quite small, and difficult to detect- thus we didn't discover it until twenty years ago.

This is duh.
HannesAlfven
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 25, 2016
Re: "If you have a case against the redshift distance relation, go ahead.
But you don't, so your claim that it is based on faith is just a smoke screen."

Yes, let me just type it into this little box here for you, because if somebody cannot convince another in 1000 characters that there was no Big Bang at all, then they clearly have no argument at all.
Solon
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 25, 2016
@Tuxford

That has to be the stupidest thing I have ever read. Something from nothing! And you rail against the big bangers and their magic dust and hocus poke us. WTF!


Something does not need to come from nothing, the something comes from pair production. Where do the gamma rays come from? How about vacuum spark/arcs?
Where could the vacuum arc originate? How about a pinch in a cosmic scale flux tube? Is it coincidence that as observations keep improving the view of the regions around black holes, the more gamma rays are detected? Most of the hard gamma rays are converted to matter, we detect the lesser energy ones.
The ancients were correct it seems, the Hidden Light of Creation looks more like the best solution.
Solon
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 26, 2016
The pinch in the cosmic scale flux tube is likely similar to that observed in the solar corona flux tubes, thought the solar flare soon depletes the short flux tube, whereas the cosmic scale flux tubes will provide for a sustained generation of the gamma rays.
OBSERVATIONAL EVIDENCE OF SAUSAGE-PINCH INSTABILITY IN SOLAR CORONA BY SDO/AIA
http://v-fedun.st...2013.pdf

With QED then. at energies above the Schwinger limit, we can invoke optical rectification rather than gravitational separation to produce the GeV/cm electric fields needed to produce the observed intense magnetic fields around events such as magnetars. The almost infinite mass of the standard model is not needed, though this would mean accepting gravity as an EM force.

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