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.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
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: Young binary star system may form planets with weird and wild orbits

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

Related Stories

Cosmologists 'see' the cosmic dawn

Feb 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The images, produced by scientists at Durham University's Institute for Computational Cosmology, show the "Cosmic Dawn" - the formation of the first big galaxies in the Universe.

Survey Reveals Building Block Process For Biggest Galaxies

Apr 12, 2006

A new study of the universe's most massive galaxy clusters shows how mergers play a critical role in their evolution. Astronomers used the twin Gemini Observatory instruments in Hawaii and Chile, and the Hubble Space Telescope ...

'Big baby' galaxy found in newborn Universe

Sep 28, 2005

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have teamed up to 'weigh' the stars in distant galaxies. One of these galaxies is not only one of the most distant ever seen, but it appears to be unusually ...

Recommended for you

Evidence of a local hot bubble carved by a supernova

8 hours ago

I spent this past weekend backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park, where although the snow-swept peaks and the dangerously close wildlife were staggering, the night sky stood in triumph. Without a fire, ...

Astronomers measure weight of galaxies, expansion of universe

16 hours ago

Astronomers at the University of British Columbia have collaborated with international researchers to calculate the precise mass of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies, dispelling the notion that the two galaxies have similar ...

Mysterious molecules in space

Jul 29, 2014

Over the vast, empty reaches of interstellar space, countless small molecules tumble quietly though the cold vacuum. Forged in the fusion furnaces of ancient stars and ejected into space when those stars ...

Comet Jacques makes a 'questionable' appearance

Jul 28, 2014

What an awesome photo! Italian amateur astronomer Rolando Ligustri nailed it earlier today using a remote telescope in New Mexico and wide-field 4-inch (106 mm) refractor. Currently the brightest comet in ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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