Early galaxy went through 'teenage growth spurt,' scientists say (w/ Video)

Mar 21, 2010
This artist’s impression of the distant galaxy SMM J2135-0102 shows large bright clouds a few hundred light-years in size, which are regions of active star formation, These “star factories” are similar in size to those in the Milky Way, but one hundred times more luminous, suggesting that star formation in the early life of these galaxies is a much more vigorous process than typically found in local galaxies. Credit: Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists have found a massive galaxy in the early Universe creating stars like our sun up to 100 times faster than the modern-day Milky Way.

The team of international researchers, led by Durham University, described the finding as like seeing "a teenager going through a growth spurt".

Due to the amount of time it takes light to reach Earth the scientists observed the galaxy as it would have appeared 10 billion years ago - just three billion years after the .

They found four discrete star-forming regions within the galaxy known as SMM J2135-0102. Each region was more than 100 times brighter than star-forming regions in the , such as the .

They say their results, published online today (Sunday, March 21), in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, suggest that star formation was more rapid and vigorous in the early Universe as galaxies went through periods of huge growth.

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This zoom on the location of the distant galaxy SMM J2135-0102 reveals how it was first discovered by astronomers observing a massive galaxy cluster using submillimetre wavelengths of light, with the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope. After zooming to the location of the galaxy cluster the position of SMM J2135-0102, as discovered by APEX's LABOCA camera, is shown in red. A further zoom shows how follow-up observations with the Submillimeter Array (also in red) revealed the clouds where stars are forming in the galaxy with great precision. Our view of the galaxy is magnified by gravitational lensing, which also produces a doubling of the image; the apparent eight regions in the Submillimeter Array observations actually represent four distinct regions of star formation in the galaxy. Credit: ESO/APEX/M. Swinbank et al.; DSS2, NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope & SMA

The findings, funded by the Royal Astronomical Society and the Science and Technology Facilities Council, provide a unique insight into how formed in the early Universe, the scientists added.

Lead author Dr Mark Swinbank, in the Institute for , at Durham University, said: "This galaxy is like a teenager going through a growth spurt. If you could see it today as an adult you'd find the galactic equivalent of the football player Peter Crouch.

"We don't fully understand why the stars are forming so rapidly but our results suggest that stars formed much more efficiently in the early Universe than they do today.

"Galaxies in the early Universe appear to have gone through rapid growth and stars like our sun formed much more quickly than they do today."

The scientists estimate that the observed galaxy is producing stars at a rate equivalent to 250 suns per year.

This composite image shows the discovery of the distant galaxy SMM J2135-0102. Left: a view of galaxy cluster MACS J2135-010217 (centre), which is gravitationally lensing SMM J2135-0102. Top right: SMM J2135-0102 was first discovered in submillimetre-wavelength observations (shown in red) with the LABOCA camera on the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope. Bottom right: follow-up observations with the Submillimeter Array (in red) revealed the clouds where stars are forming in the galaxy with great precision. Our view of the galaxy is magnified by gravitational lensing, which also produces a doubling of the image; the apparent eight regions in the Submillimeter Array observations actually represent four distinct regions of star formation in the galaxy. Credit: ESO/APEX/M. Swinbank et al.; NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope & SMA

The findings support earlier research led by Durham University. In 2009 Durham scientists found that a galaxy - called MS1358arc - was forming stars more rapidly than expected when it was observed as it would have appeared almost 12.5billion years ago.

SMM J2135-0102 was found using the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope, which is operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Follow-up observations were carried out by combining the natural gravitational lens of nearby galaxies with the powerful Submillimeter Array telescope based in Hawaii to magnify the galaxy even further.

Dr Swinbank added: "The magnification reveals the galaxy in unprecedented detail, even though it is so distant that its light has taken about 10 billion years to reach us.

"In follow-up observations with the Submillimeter Array telescope we've been able to study the clouds where stars are forming in the galaxy with great precision."

This image shows the galaxy cluster MACS J2135-010217 (centre), which is gravitationally lensing the distant galaxy SMM J2135-0102. The image is 5 arcminutes across, and contains data from the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Carlos De Breuck, a co-author of the paper, from ESO, said: "The star formation in this galaxy's large dust clouds is unlike that in the nearby Universe.

"However, our observations suggest that we should be able to use underlying physics from the densest cores in nearby galaxies to understand star birth in these more distant ."

Explore further: Telescopes hint at neutrino beacon at the heart of the Milky Way

More information: Intense Star-Formation within Resolved Compact Regions in a Galaxy at z=2, Swinbank, AM, et al, Nature, DOI:10.1038/nature08880

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addidis
5 / 5 (2) Mar 21, 2010
"We don't fully understand why the stars are forming so rapidly but our results suggest that stars formed much more efficiently in the early Universe than they do today."

It goes to reason that there was more material that hadnt formed into large bodies (stars, planets, moons) and later devoured by black holes then, which explains the rapid growth.

A larger portion of the universe is now "used up" in planets, stars, and black holes leading to a longer time needed for more material to succumb to gravity and bunch up into bodies capable of generating a nuclear reaction. I think of the first matter, kind of like fizz coming out of solution in a soda pop, as it cooled and was able to form mass it created stars more quickly because it "came out of solution" near already forming masses.

Well thats my 2 cents any how.
addidis
not rated yet Mar 21, 2010
as should we be with your insight above ;)
yyz
5 / 5 (1) Mar 25, 2010
Recently, 2 Lyman-alpha emitters (LAEs) were found to be lensed by separate galaxy clusters and were spectroscopically confirmed to both lie at ~z=5.0! Once again, strong lensing to the rescue to get a good look at some very distant, apparently intrinsically small and faint galaxies from such a distant epoch. Both are intrinsically small and nearly dust free, but without the high Stellar Formation Rate seen in the above-mentioned galaxy. A copy of the paper is at arXiv.org: http://arxiv.org/...3.0039v2

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