Scientists Reveal More Information on the Unstable “Monster Galaxy”

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There is a “monster galaxy” 12.4 billion light years away that an international team of astronomers from Japan, Mexico and the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been analyzing for a while. Their instruments allowed them to see the structural details of that galaxy, something which wasn’t known before.

The study contains the analysis of the galaxy’s dynamic properties, which was published in the journal Nature.

“Monster Galaxies,” The Ancestors of Massive Galaxies

Long before our galaxy was born in today’s universe, there were extreme starburst galaxies, known as “monster galaxies.” They were the ancestors of today’s galaxies.

Researchers found essential information about the far-away galaxy known as COSMOS-AzTEC-1, which could help them understand how they formed and evolved.

Co-author of the study, member of the team and a professor of astronomy at UMass Amherst, Min Yun explains:

“A real surprise is that this galaxy seen almost 13 billion years ago has a massive, ordered gas disk that is in regular rotation instead of what we had expected, which would have been some kind of a disordered train wreck that most theoretical studies had predicted.”

The recent observations were made with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a telescope in Chile. The lead author of the paper, Ken-ichi Tadaki, who is a postdoctoral researcher at the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the nation’s National Astronomical Observatory stated that ALMA observations helped them to “see such far-away galaxies with unprecedented resolution.”

Tadaki and his team saw that COSMOS-AzTEC-1 was rich in the ingredients of stars, but couldn’t understand the nature of the cosmic gas in that galaxy. So, they used the ALMA telescope to get a high resolution and a detailed map of the motion of the gas. This is how they have created the highest resolution map of the molecular gas in a distant monster galaxy – the first ever made.

Tadaki explained that they found “two distinct large clouds several thousand light-years away from the center. In most distant starburst galaxies, stars are actively formed in the center. So it is surprising to find off-center clouds.”

Until now, scientists had no idea how the monster galaxies get so much gas and turn it into stars so fast. The lead author then says:

“We have the first answers now”

New observations came with many answers. The team believes the monster galaxy gets its power from “an extremely gas-heavy disk that is somehow kept stable until enough gas is amassed.”

The gas clouds in COSMOS-AzTEC-1 were found to be unusually unstable, and it shows runaway star formation, morphing the galaxy into an unstoppable monster. The team predicts that the gas in COSMOS-AzTEC-1 will be consumed ten times faster than in other star-forming galaxies – which means it will happen in 100 million years.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere