Hubble captures massive dead disk galaxy that challenges theories of galaxy evolution

June 21, 2017 by Ann Jenkins, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
This artist's concept shows what the young, dead, disk galaxy MACS2129-1, right, would look like when compared with the Milky Way galaxy, left. Although three times as massive as the Milky Way, it is only half the size. MACS2129-1 is also spinning more than twice as fast as the Milky Way. Note that regions of Milky Way are blue from bursts of star formation, while the young, dead galaxy is yellow, signifying an older star population and no new star birth. Credit: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levy (STScI)

By combining the power of a "natural lens" in space with the capability of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers made a surprising discovery—the first example of a compact yet massive, fast-spinning, disk-shaped galaxy that stopped making stars only a few billion years after the big bang.

Finding such a galaxy early in the history of the universe challenges the current understanding of how form and evolve, say researchers.

When Hubble photographed the galaxy, astronomers expected to see a chaotic ball of stars formed through merging together. Instead, they saw evidence that the stars were born in a pancake-shaped disk.

This is the first direct observational evidence that at least some of the earliest so-called "dead" galaxies—where star formation stopped—somehow evolve from a Milky Way-shaped disk into the giant elliptical galaxies we see today.

This is a surprise because elliptical galaxies contain older stars, while spiral galaxies typically contain younger blue stars. At least some of these early "dead" disk galaxies must have gone through major makeovers. They not only changed their structure, but also the motions of their stars to make a shape of an .

"This new insight may force us to rethink the whole cosmological context of how galaxies burn out early on and evolve into local elliptical-shaped galaxies," said study leader Sune Toft of the Dark Cosmology Center at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. "Perhaps we have been blind to the fact that early "dead" galaxies could in fact be disks, simply because we haven't been able to resolve them."

Previous studies of distant dead galaxies have assumed that their structure is similar to the local elliptical galaxies they will evolve into. Confirming this assumption in principle requires more powerful telescopes than are currently available. However, through the phenomenon known as "gravitational lensing," a massive, foreground cluster of galaxies acts as a natural "zoom lens" in space by magnifying and stretching images of far more distant background galaxies. By joining this natural lens with the resolving power of Hubble, scientists were able to see into the center of the dead galaxy.

Acting as a "natural telescope" in space, the gravity of the extremely massive foreground galaxy cluster MACS J2129-0741 magnifies, brightens, and distorts the far-distant background galaxy MACS2129-1, shown in the top box. The middle box is a blown-up view of the gravitationally lensed galaxy. In the bottom box is a reconstructed image, based on modeling that shows what the galaxy would look like if the galaxy cluster were not present. The galaxy appears red because it is so distant that its light is shifted into the red part of the spectrum. Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Postman (STScI), and the CLASH team

The remote galaxy is three times as massive as the Milky Way but only half the size. Rotational velocity measurements made with the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) showed that the disk galaxy is spinning more than twice as fast as the Milky Way.

Using archival data from the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH), Toft and his team were able to determine the stellar mass, star-formation rate, and the ages of the stars.

Why this galaxy stopped forming stars is still unknown. It may be the result of an active galactic nucleus, where energy is gushing from a supermassive black hole. This energy inhibits star formation by heating the gas or expelling it from the galaxy. Or it may be the result of the cold gas streaming onto the galaxy being rapidly compressed and heated up, preventing it from cooling down into star-forming clouds in the galaxy's center.

But how do these young, massive, compact disks evolve into the elliptical galaxies we see in the present-day universe? "Probably through mergers," Toft said. "If these galaxies grow through merging with minor companions, and these minor companions come in large numbers and from all sorts of different angles onto the galaxy, this would eventually randomize the orbits of stars in the galaxies. You could also imagine major mergers. This would definitely also destroy the ordered motion of the ."

The findings are published in the June 22 issue of the journal Nature. Toft and his team hope to use NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to look for a larger sample of such galaxies.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the . The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

The Very Large Telescope is a telescope facility operated by the European Southern Observatory on Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile.

Explore further: A lot of galaxies need guarding in this NASA Hubble view

More information: A massive, dead disk galaxy in the early Universe, Nature (2017). nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature22388

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Tuxford
1.6 / 5 (14) Jun 21, 2017
Instead, they saw evidence that the stars were born in a pancake-shaped disk.

Surprise, like I've saying. Galaxies grow from the inside-out, not the reverse! Spirals grow into giant ellipticals.
This new insight may force us to rethink...

Not possible for the common merger maniac.
Perhaps we have been blind...

Indeed.
The remote galaxy is three times as massive as the Milky Way but only half the size.

Likely much bigger than can be observed for now.
Why this galaxy stopped forming stars is still unknown.

It didn't stop. The assumption arises from ignorance of the tired light effect of light climbing out of a gravity well, such as this massive galaxy, causing it to appear more yellow. It is not dead. It is rather the rigid minds of common merger maniacs that are dead.
But how do these young, massive, compact disks evolve into the elliptical galaxies we see in the present-day universe?

Core ejections grow more random.
Questions??
tblakely1357
3.5 / 5 (8) Jun 22, 2017
The farther they look back they find more evidence that something major is off with our current knowledge of cosmology.
wduckss
1 / 5 (5) Jun 22, 2017
"The omnipresent rotation, which is by itself a very interesting event, is situated into the impossible surroundings, instead of being observed as an independent central event.
From the astronomic observations the rotation can be divided into these categories: slow cyclones (they exist on the poles of Sun and similar stars of the slow rotation, as well as on some gas giants); fast cyclones (the shiny stars with a high speed rotation; also, the centers of spiral galaxies); very fast cyclones (elliptical galaxies and so-called pulsars or neutron stars). The faster the rotation, the stronger the gravitational forces are." http://www.svemir...html#14b 2013.
RNP
5 / 5 (6) Jun 22, 2017
An open access copy of the paper can be found here: https://arxiv.org...7030.pdf
Da Schneib
4.2 / 5 (5) Jun 22, 2017
Thanks, @RNP.

This is great news; it will constrain models of galaxy evolution in the early universe and lead to further advances in astrophysics and cosmology. The relentless advance of science dictates that these newly constrained models will make predictions that can then be checked by the JWST when it goes up next year. Of course, assuming ol' orange jebus doesn't cut it from the budget because it might provide evidence of global warming.
Tuxford
1.7 / 5 (6) Jun 23, 2017
Thanks, @RNP.

This is great news; it will constrain models of galaxy evolution in the early universe and lead to further advances in astrophysics and cosmology. The relentless advance of science dictates that these newly constrained models will make predictions that can then be checked by the JWST when it goes up next year. Of course, assuming ol' orange jebus doesn't cut it from the budget because it might provide evidence of global warming.

Typical self-assuring political speak from a committed main-streamer, trying to paint a smile on a pig's face. It is always the same in the face of confusing evidence: 'this will help us better understand....' And well, it gets voted up!

Thanks to those few who bother to up vote my recent posts. I have been at this for more than five years, and never received up votes at all during those early years. Instead, it was constant derision from the main-stream interests.
Dingbone
Jun 23, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Dingbone
Jun 23, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Macksb
1 / 5 (1) Jun 27, 2017
Interesting that this galaxy is yellow and dead. So the frequency of the electromagnetic radiation from the stars is quite uniform. And the amplitude of the EM waves is probably quite uniform also from star to star.

The uniformity of the waves of electromagnetic radiation, in frequency and amplitude, might lead to a unification of the large scale EM radiation among the stars. That might result in large scale circular polarization. (See Wikipedia, circular polarization. And Wikipedia polarization (waves).

A disk shape would then be a likely outcome--transverse to the propagation of the (unified) EM waves. And the uniformity of wave frequency and amplitude would permit higher density.

wkingmilw
not rated yet Jun 28, 2017
I'll bet the galaxy had an interaction/collision with another galaxy earlier in its life and it lost its "Dark Matter Halo". The super-massive black hole is a fountain of creative energy during its early youth. Spraying billions of solar masses into space. In most galaxies the "Dark Matter Halo" captures and saves a large portion of the gas that the black hole blows off allowing star formation to continue once the gas has a chance to cool. In this galaxy the black whole blew away all its gas, hence no 3rd and 4th generation stars. All makes sense to me now.

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