New Findings Challenge Galaxy Formation Ideas

Article written: 21 Apr , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

An international team of astronomers have undertaken a survey with a new submillimeter camera have discovered more than a hundred dusty galaxies in the early Universe, each of which is in the throes of an intense burst of star formation. These submillimeter galaxies are associated with the early formation of some of the most massive galaxies in the present-day Universe: giant elliptical galaxies. One of these galaxies is an example of a rare class of starburst, seen just 1 billion years after the Big Bang, and may present a direct challenge to current ideas of how galaxies formed.

The team (known as the LESS collaboration) used the new Large Apex Bolometer Camera (LABOCA) camera on the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope sited in the Atacama Desert in Chile to make a map of the distant galaxies in a region of the sky called the Extended Chandra Deep Field South.

These galaxies are so far away that we see them as they appeared billions of years ago. LABOCA is sensitive to light at wavelengths just below 1mm (submillimetre radiation), and is able to find very dusty and very luminous galaxies at very early times in the history of the Universe, when giant elliptical galaxies formed

For many years it has been thought that these giant elliptical galaxies formed most of their stars at very early times in the Universe, within the first billion years after the Big Bang. However, very few examples of these very distant and very bright dusty sources have been found in submillimeter surveys, until the LESS collaboration completed their survey of a Full Moon-sized patch of sky in the southern hemisphere constellation of Fornax. Their survey is the largest and deepest of its kind in submillimeter radiation and reveals over a hundred galaxies that are forming stars at a prodigious rate.

Working with their new map, the team identified one of the submillimeter sources as being associated with a star forming galaxy which is seen just 1 billion years after the Big Bang. This remarkable galaxy shows the signatures of both intense star formation and obscured black hole growth when the Universe was only 10 percent of its current age. Dr. Kristin Coppin of Durham University and the LESS team suggest that there could be far more submillimeter galaxies lurking at these early times than had previously been thought. “The discovery of a larger number of such active galaxies at such an early time would be at odds with current galaxy formation models,” said Coppin.

Coppin presented the team’s findings at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science conference.

Source: RAS

8 Responses

  1. Astrofiend says

    Damn I can’t wait until the Atacama Large Millimeter Array fires up. That thing will be absolutely sure to rock the foundations of our galaxy formation theories, among other things.

    We ain’t seen nothing yet! Literally…

  2. It’s hard for me to believe that contemporary scientists are willing to challenge old ideas in light of their dogmatism and fundamentalism.

    It only took a couple thousand years between Aristoarchos and Copernicus for people to propose heliocentrism in the solar system, and even then it was rejected.

    So I figure by 4009 people might begin to suspect there is electricity in space.

  3. Astrofiend says

    “It’s hard for me to believe that contemporary scientists are willing to challenge old ideas…”

    We can tell.

    Scientists’ whole job is to take apart and destroy old ideas as quickly and efficiently as they possibly can. Not at the expense of replacing them with poorly conceived new ones with practically zero predictive power though.

    “So I figure by 4009 people might begin to suspect there is electricity in space.”

    If by ‘electricity in space’ you mean the movement and flow of charged particles, well, that’s been around for a while as a mainstream idea mate. If, however, you mean that every phenomenon in the universe is an electrical effect – well, I think you’d be waiting until at least AD4009. Shame for you really, isn’t it?

  4. Michael says

    If Halton Arp is right, these galaxies are not at the
    distances their redshift would indicate.

    These are very young relatively nearby galaxies, recently ejected from their ‘parents’ and are in the process of active star formation.

    The mass of electrons in these galaxies would weigh much less than ones in ours. They are in the process of gaining more mass by Mach’s principle .

    Hence their spectra put them in the sub millimeter category.

  5. DrFlimmer says

    @ Michael

    Then explain me: Are electrons gaining mass forever? If yes then we would definitly test them with particle physics experiments. In those experiments we are even creating new ones and they have the same mass as all the other electrons we have ever seen.

    And btw: If this thing is indeed true, then all our understandings of the universe (and even the physics here on earth) would be wrong, One of the basic priciples of physics is that our laws hold everywhere in the universe. If the electronmass (which is critical for the transition-lines of atoms and other things) changes, then basically everything is wrong.

    And since we never ever measured any gain of mass of electrons, I consider this idea to be flawed. I have some arguments at home, too. I can present them later this day.

  6. kenn hammer says

    i think this is so exciting. its gonna be big the day someone builds something that can look back at the big bang and who knows maybe even longer back. if there is anything to look at before the bb. we will get so many answers that day. or maybe even more questions 🙂

  7. Feenixx says

    Mach’s principle is not a scientific theory to be used as a model for explaining observations, or for making predictions such as you suggest. It’s a philosophical conjecture for relating local events to the workings of the Universe as a Whole. Scientists often use it as a “focus tool”, similar to the way they use Occams Razor.
    I read somewhere that Einstein used it when he put General Relativity together.

  8. LR Holliday says

    I have read that all of the stars in large elliptical galaxies (such as M87) formed at roughly the same time, 12-13 billion years ago. If this is so, then the formation of these stars must have been the most stupendous starburst anyone could ever imagine.

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