Friday, December 30, 2011

Newly Discovered Galaxy Making Stars at a Prodigious Rate

Almost 13 billion years ago, light left a small cluster of stars and headed towards a collection of stars that one day would make up the Milky Way galaxy. When it finally reached us, the light proved to be one of the more startling discoveries of the year.

An indistinct blob collection of stars so incredibly distant that when light left it, the universe itself was only 750 million years older or a mere 5% of its' present age.

As fascinating as that is, galaxy GN-108036 continued to surprise. Because of the energy output of the small cluster scientists suspected at first a fairly large system which proved wrong. GN-108036 appears to be only 1/100th as massive but is producing stars 30 times faster than the Milky Way! This goes against all previous results. Clusters that young had never been found to be so bright and energetic.  Scientists using NASA's Hubble and Spitzer were  surprised by how bright the galaxy appeared.  Not only is it bright but extremely red shifted.  The redder an object is, the farther away it is and the faster it is traveling.  GN-108036's red shift is 7.2 which indicates extreme distance and speed, making it among only a handful of other galaxies so distant.

Bahram Mobasher, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California who announced the discovery said that GN-108036 likely represents the ancestor of the more massive and evolved galaxies seen today.

NASA's site also adds:

  • The galaxy was discovered and confirmed using the Subaru telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory, respectively, both located atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

Thanks to Dan for the heads up. 

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