New Study: Some Massive Galaxies Were Practically Born That Way

Article written: 1 Apr , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

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New research is casting doubt on the prevailing view that the heaviest galaxies in the universe started out small and gained mass by devouring other matter that ventured too close.

Peering at galaxies two-thirds of the way back in time to the Big Bang, an international team of astronomers is suggesting that some of the giants we see today were just as massive in that earlier age as they are now.

The new findings were released today in the journal Nature.

Lead author Chris Collins, an astronomer at the United Kindgdom’s Liverpool John Moores University, and his colleagues made their discovery using one of the largest optical telescopes in the World, called Subaru (named after the Japanese word for the Pleiades star cluster), located on the Island of Hawaii and owned by the National Observatory of Japan.

They focused on brightest cluster galaxies (BCGs), located at the centers of galaxy clusters. The massive galaxies constitute a separate population from bright elliptical galaxies, and both their predictability and extreme luminosity have motivated their use as standard candles for cosmology, the authors point out.

Analysing the light from these remote galaxies, the astronomers effectively weighed them and found that despite feeding on a constant diet of small galaxies, the heaviest galaxies have not increased their weight over the last 9 billion years. In a universe whose age is 13.7 billion years old, these results spark a debate as to how these galaxies put on so much weight in the first few billion years after the Big Bang.

“Current predictions using simulations run on super computers suggest that at such a young age these galaxies should be only 20 percent of their final weight, so to find galaxies so large suggests that galaxy formation is a much more rapid process than we previously thought,” Collins said, “and perhaps the theories are missing some important physics.”

John Stott, Collin’s colleague at LJMU and a co-author on the paper, said the team was “surprised to find that the largest and brightest galaxies in the Universe have remained essentially unchanged for the last 9 billion years, having grown rapidly soon after the Big Bang.”

One possibility being considered is that the galaxies formed by the collapse of an already massive cloud at the dawn of the universe.

MORE ABOUT LEAD IMAGE: The image shows the central 1.5 x 1.5 arc min of the cluster corresponding to 0.75 Mpc at this distance. The clusters X-ray emission is used to pinpoint the location of the brightest galaxy in the cluster as shown by the green contours which represent the X-ray intensity as measured by the XMM-Newton X-ray satellite.

Source: LJMU’s Astrophysics Research Institute


29 Responses

  1. Jon Hanford says

    Anyone have a (free) link to the published paper? This conclusion of galaxy formation seems contrary to the predominate ‘bottom up’ paradigm of galaxy formation. I would be interested in the details of this finding.

  2. solrey says

    “Current predictions using simulations run on super computers suggest that at such a young age these galaxies should be only 20 percent of their final weight, so to find galaxies so large suggests that galaxy formation is a much more rapid process than we previously thought,” Collins said, “and perhaps the theories are missing some important physics.”

    Or perhaps their theories are completely wrong and the important “missing” physics (eh, hum plasma) are more applicable to other theories that are based on the electro-magnetic properties of the most prolific state of matter in the universe.

  3. Salacious B. Crumb says

    There is no “missing” physics is this article. Electro-magnetic properties cannot account for the gravitational collapse of proto-galaxies, nor for the amount of initial mass that forms them. Furthermore, this observation only goes to 9 billion years ago. The initial formation period still leaves 3 to 4 billion years to form (assuming the Universe is 13.7 billion years.)

    Note: More EU crackpots have joined the fray! The Thunderbolts.Info management’s current new plan to discredit current accepted theory and investigation by saturation tactics. Expect more of this rubbish to come.

  4. star-grazer says

    I still believe galaxies were born different sizes, the largest young ones was still much smaller than the current large galaxies. The bigger young galaxies ‘eats’ the smaller ones like ‘big fish eats smaller fish’.
    As more improved technology can get back further in time and have better data , there may be a good idea what really happened when galaxies formed, of course, it can never be exactly right, but good enough for most to agree on the starting point.

  5. solrey says

    @Crumb
    Namecalling, is this your strongest attribute? Or maybe paranoia over some imagined co-ordinated effort by a random assortment of electric theory advocates?
    Do you even realize that EU/PC theory is not a new phenomenon, that throughout the years, even prior to Birkeland, there’s been somewhat of an ongoing scientific “battle” for acceptance of electric phenomena and related theory in regards to space sciences? Many have even won Nobel prizes along the way.

    By the way, the lead author of the paper, Chris Collins, said “and perhaps the theories are missing some important physics.”
    I just pointed out what the scientists that actually did the research said.
    Or did you not catch that due to your zeal to ridicule, in your own particular style of annoying arrogance?

  6. Salacious B. Crumb says

    Or maybe paranoia over some imagined co-ordinated effort by a random assortment of electric theory advocates?

    There is a co-ordinated attack by the EU crackpots. Sadly there is a rat in your ranks, and in the last week has been a hive of activity.
    No paranoia, here. Thunderbolts.Info is has an agenda, where it does not disclose its associated – but tells them to act as if they are ‘individuals’. As I said before, the tactics of a fanatical religious cult.
    Why else have all the EU nit-wits suddenly just popped up? Coincidence – of course not!

    Note: The Thunderbolts.Info management’s current new plan to discredit current accepted theory and investigation by saturation tactics. Expect more of this rubbish to come.

  7. Salacious B. Crumb says

    Or maybe paranoia over some imagined co-ordinated effort by a random assortment of electric theory advocates?

    There is a co-ordinated attack by the EU crackpots. Sadly there is a rat in your ranks, and in the last week has been a hive of activity.
    No paranoia, here. Thunderbolts.Info is has an agenda, where it does not disclose its associated – but tells them to act as if they are ‘individuals’. As I said before, the tactics of a fanatical religious cult.
    Why else have all the EU nit-wits suddenly just popped up?
    Coincidence – of course not! Con artists – You Betcha!

    Note: The Thunderbolts.Info management’s current new plan to discredit current accepted theory and investigation by saturation tactics. Expect more of this rubbish to come.

  8. solrey says

    @crumb

    Is this what you mean about the tactics of a fanatical religious cult?

    From the Thuderbolts site:

    ” Scholarly and Scientific Liaison ”

    “As our Internet presence expands the opportunity to reach independent minded and accredited researchers will continue to grow. Visitors who now have a good sense of the “Electric Universe” hypothesis can be helpful in directing the attention of others to the site. Your active liaison on our behalf will make possible much broader interdisciplinary communication than any of us could achieve on our own.

    In your communications, please be sure that, unless you have developed specific strategies with Thunderbolts management, you not identify yourself as a member of the Thunderbolts group, but as a curious or interested observer.”

    WOW, that’s scary. Look for those kooks selling plasma globes at an airport near you.

    NOT

    Personally, I’ve always been skeptical of the whole big bang/black hole/dark matter scenario, and more so in recent years with each new observation resulting in; declarations of ‘surprise’, contradictory hypotheses, failed predictions, ‘new discoveries’ solely based on filling a gap in theory that failed prediction, etc.

    And if humankind can benefit somehow, which it would, by applying EU theory, then I’m all for scientists exploring these possibilities.

    “Throughout space there is energy. Is this energy static or kinetic? If static, our hopes are in vain; if kinetic – and this we know it is, for certain – then it is a mere question of time when men will succeed in attaching their machinery to the very wheelwork of Nature.” Nikola Tesla 1892

    Let’s get on it! Take real science back from the domain of the abstract theoretical mathematician. Let them consult for sci-fi novels or write video games or something more productive than leading the science world astray.

  9. Olaf says

    I agree Salacious , those EU proponents are acting more and more like those creationists.

    Same tactic, same spam, same fight about big bad scientists, same complot theory that the scientists are hiding something…

  10. Jeffery Keown says

    The very large stars born right after star formation started in the aftershock of the Big Bang would have been thousands of solar masses each. Such large stars would have very short lives, exploding as the GRBs we witness today. They collapsed into black holes, the seeds of galaxies. They were able to pull huge quantities of matter into gigantic accretion disks that formed the first galactic spirals.

    Once formed, they stayed fairly stable, this dovetails into the Feb 7th post about the ratio of early mass to rotation rate at 870 or so million years post-Bang.

    Just a pet theory of mine. Flame away, if you will. It could use some criticism.

  11. ND says

    solrey sounds suspiciously like Oils.

  12. Olaf says

    Actually it is some kind of natural selection. All those that actually believe in this EU, shows that they are easily manipulated by some conspiracy theorists agains the big bad scientists.

    Today I was listing to some creationsist podcast. I had a big laugh when I realized that they see scientists as some group of people like a religion that have a hidden agenda. This is exactly what the EU people do, the big bad scientists that complots against EU!

    And just like creationists, the EU people have to rely on manipulating people to hide the big holes in their theories. They have to make sure that if the EU theories are beeing tested, that people would not start to ask questions that shows the weakness of those theories.

    There are tons of huge holes in the EU theories that fail reality tests.

  13. Olaf says

    But let’s ask some questions to the EU proponents:

    * How would you know that the EU theory is not true?
    * How would you test the EU theory to prove that the EU theory is false?
    * What tests should fail if the EU theory is false?
    * How is the Birkley currents related to gravity?
    * How are the Birkley currents related to the distance of the Earth to the Sun.
    * How are the Birkley currents change when the Moon is between the sun and Earth.
    * If the Birkley currents change will it change the gravity on Earth.
    * More to come…

    In my opinion, if EU is true then there must be at least a whole bunch of tests that can be done to determine if the EU is true or false, so what testst have EU proponents ome up with? Or do you just believe blindly just like creationsts that i must be true without asking yourself if you are right or wrong?

  14. Olaf says

    Ah yes, none EU scientists are actually trying to measure the gravity gradient within a 10th of a mm to determin if the gravity indeed follow the inverse square law or not. According to the superstring theory, it could be that within the 10th mm range it does not follow the inverse square law anymore. But that is not so easy to do.

    Also none-Eu scientists are actually using the LHC to test if their theories are correct. They have predictable outcomes, so they are now testing if those are actually happening or not. Think about the Highs boson.

    So again, what tests have EU proponents come up with to prove that their theory are wrong? What shoudl not happen according to the EU theory. For example we have now solar minimum what should happen with gravity and what should not happen with gravity?

  15. Astrofiend says

    “Let’s get on it! Take real science back from the domain of the abstract theoretical mathematician. Let them consult for sci-fi novels or write video games or something more productive than leading the science world astray.”

    Mate, you sound like one of those socialist groups at uni spouting off about ‘taking back’ the country from rampant capitalism. News flash buddy – your call to arms won’t win any (worthwhile) supporters here.

    Newsflash – physics IS FUNDAMENTALLY MATHEMATICAL in nature sunshine. Maths is the screwdriver and physics is the screw. If you don’t understand it – too bad. Go and learn some. It may take you many years, but the rewards are handsome. On the flipside, not doing so is extremely limiting in physics – just because you may feel like you are doing physics by applying your brain power to a vague, hand-waving consideration of the universe does not mean that you actually are.

    We’ve moved past the era of Faraday et al where you could simply stick a magnet near a wire and discover meaningful empirical laws. Even then, we had the likes of Maxwell putting these things on a rigourous mathematical basis. Physics without maths is merely philosophy – observation and overactive imagination. Physics without observation is merely maths. Physics IS the interplay between imagination, maths and observation. All ingredients are essential. Of course you’ll argue that today’s physicist does not include observation in their repertoire, but that would simply show your ignorance on the subject.

    Physics has evolved along the lines it has not because of a mathematicians conspiracy to lead the world astray, but because of the sheer success that this methodology has brought us. It seems to be the only way in which we can self consistently describe this universe and get it somewhat right a lot of the time. In the immortal words of Feynman – You don’t like it? Go live some place else.

  16. Jon Hanford says

    The paper published in Nature along with much supplementary info and pics were posted on the arXiv site here: http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0904/0904.0006v1.pdf . This study looks at a special type of galaxy found in most galaxy clusters and is referred to as the Brightest Cluster Galaxy (or BCG, for obvious reasons). These galaxies are enormous, highly luminous galaxies much larger than the run-of-the-mill galaxies found in galaxy clusters (think M 87 in the Virgo Cluster or NGC 1275 in Abell 426). The paper’s authors looked at several BCGs in galaxy clusters at different distances (and hence at earlier times) and found distant BCGs are as massive as nearby BCGs. Considering their enormous sizes, current models of smaller galaxies merging to become a BCG just doesn’t work. They propose that BCGs started out massive even in the early universe, over 9 billion years ago. This makes sense because accretion of smaller galaxies to form a BCG would take too long in this very early epoch. If corroborated, these findings show that not all galaxies were formed or created equal. Note, however, that the vast majority of galaxies in the universe were indeed formed from smaller stellar systems that coalesced into the regular cluster galaxies we see today (the so-called ‘bottom-up’ theory). Some great additional galaxy cluster pics by the Subaru observatory are included in the supplemental material! @Astrofiend, ” Physics has evolved along the lines it has not because of a mathematicians conspiracy to lead the world astray, but because of the sheer success that this methodology has brought us. It seems to be the only way in which we can self consistently describe this universe and get it somewhat right a lot of the time. In the immortal words of Feynman – You don’t like it? Go live some place else.” I heartily concur.

  17. DrFlimmer says

    @ Astrofriend:

    Nothing to add to your splendid comment!

  18. solrey says

    @astrofriend
    Mate, you sound kinda paranoid. How does a desire to explore harnessing, and benefitting from, the possible electric nature of the universe equate to a socialist anti-capitalist agenda? Because I could make my own energy and not have to pay somebody else for it?
    I have “learned some math” like calculus, differential equations, statistical analysis, and was even a math tutor in college so your condescending tone is totally ridiculous. I’ve always said that math is a useful tool. It’s because I understand, and even apply, math that I’m not in awe of it and also realize that it is an essential tool. What I’m saying is that nature doesn’t have to conform to our mathematics, it is what it is and math will only take us so far in understanding it.

    @olaf
    You mean tracing Birkeland currents like this?
    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0812/0812.4925v1.pdf

    Or maybe the “flux tubes”, as NASA calls, them connecting Earth to Sun? Perhaps the 2 million watt “flux tube” connecting Io with Jupiter?

  19. Salacious B. Crumb says

    solrey said;

    “Perhaps the 2 million watt “flux tube” connecting Io with Jupiter”

    How about the 10^26 Watts produced by the Sun.

    Kind of trivial don’t you think?

  20. solrey says

    @crumb
    Cherry picking again, I see. My response was in answer to a question about detecting or mapping “Birkeland currents”, of which the Io to Jupiter connection is one. It has nothing to do with a comparison of power output.
    I see you ignored the link about mapping galactic magnetic fields, though.
    Your attempts to discredit people who advocate EU theory are rather silly and irrational in their approach.

  21. ND says

    Solrey: “I have “learned some math” like calculus, differential equations, statistical analysis, and was even a math tutor in college”

    I take back what I said earlier. You’r not OilIsMastery writing under a different nick.

    Solrey: “Take real science back from the domain of the abstract theoretical mathematician.”

    I find this to be just rhetoric and even a red herring. Mathematics is the best thing we have in expressing the phenomenon in nature as we understand them. Last time I checked, science has not given up on experimentally verifying new and old theories. You’re painting a skewed picture of the interplay between scientists, mathematical theories and experimentation/observation.

    Solrey: “What I’m saying is that nature doesn’t have to conform to our mathematics”

    I don’t think anyone disagrees with this. It is a struggle to express nature’s ways using math. Mathematical models are changed to conform to nature’s ways.

    Solrey: “it is what it is and math will only take us so far in understanding it.”

    Do you have something better. Don’t plasma physicists use math?

  22. Will says

    @Mr. Hanford
    “Considering their enormous sizes, current models of smaller galaxies merging to become a BCG just doesn’t work. They propose that BCGs started out massive even in the early universe, over 9 billion years ago. This makes sense because accretion of smaller galaxies to form a BCG would take too long in this very early epoch. If corroborated, these findings show that not all galaxies were formed or created equal. Note, however, that the vast majority of galaxies in the universe were indeed formed from smaller stellar systems that coalesced into the regular cluster galaxies we see today (the so-called ‘bottom-up’ theory).”
    I thought this was concluded based on the latest WMAP results.

  23. Will says

    Sorry; substitute postulated for the word concluded in my previous post.

  24. solrey says

    @ND
    Actually, I think the interplay is skewed by such a heavy emphasis on mathematically based theories. I’m just talking about maintaining a balance with less emphasis on pure theoretical math.
    Of course plasma physicists use math, pretty much about as complicated as math gets actually, given the combination of fluid dynamics and electromagnetism, a.k.a. magnetohydrodynamics. What plasma physicists have discovered is that plasma behavior can be studied and quantified but is notoriously difficult to model mathematically. Even so, A. Peratt modeled a computer simulation of spiral galaxy formation based solely on formulae from plasma physics.

    I’m not against math per se, quite the opposite, I’m simply against relying on math for all the answers and the propensity to interpret observations to fit the existing theoretical mathematical models, when they don’t necessarily correspond, instead of modifying the models to fit the observations.

  25. ND says

    solrey,

    The Peratt simulation is brought up quite often. If I read/remember right, he did use gravity as part of his simulation. I don’t know to what extent it played out compared to the plasma physics he used since my background in in physics is way limited.

    Also, the simulation was done in the 80s. That same simulation could be done with ease with todays desktop computers. I don’t believe this simulation has been explored further since then.

  26. ND says

    You know, I had this feeling of dejavu right after I posted my previous post. As if this has happened all before. I wonder why?

  27. Jon Hanford says

    @ Will: I would look at these results as being in agreement with a conclusion from a WMAP study of the existence of massive galaxies in the early universe.

  28. Feenixx says

    solrey says:

    “What I’m saying is that nature doesn’t have to conform to our mathematics,”

    In the Universe I live in, mathematics is not something Nature may or may not conform to.
    It’s more like a “language of Nature”, which Nature “uses in order to try and communicate with us”. I have to learn mathematics in order to understand the way Nature works.

    @Jon Hanford
    thanks for your posting – I had a huge problem with this article. It made utterly no sense to me, due to just one missing piece of information. You filled in the gaps nicely.

  29. Jon Hanford says

    @ Feenixx, glad to be of some help interpreting these observations. I too, had several questions concerning these results, which is one of the reasons I like to read the original published or submitted papers concerning the object or mechanism being studied. While not a professional astronomer, I took three years of undergrad studies majoring in astrophysics at Ohio State University, so technical published papers don’t all read like Greek to me. I like to get my info “from the horses mouth”, so to speak. This is also why I try to include links to original papers where possible, or follow supplied links by UT, Science News, or New Scientist, etc. to the original papers. Press releases tend to gloss over details of the observations or theories presented to make the press release accessible to the layperson.

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