Feeds

First galaxies arrived early, and overweight

Infrared is the new black, dahling

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The next step in data security

Galaxies might have started to form far earlier than scientists had previously thought, according to new results from teams working on the Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes.

Speaking at the Royal Astronomical Society's annual conference in Birmingham this week, Andrew Bunker, from the university of Exeter, explained that he and his team had new evidence that could give theorists a bit of a scare. Using data from three of the most important telescopes we have - Hubble, Hawaii's optical Keck telescope and Spitzer, an infrared space telescope - the team has shown that galaxies nearly 13 billion light-years away are far older than anyone had expected.

Theoretical predictions for the history of star formation are highly uncertain. There is a general consensus that the universe was pretty dark for most of the first billion years, and that the first stars "switched on" after several hundred million years.

The galaxies spotted by Bunker and his research team were blazing with light when the universe was less than a billion years old, and were already several hundred million years old themselves. The team also found some that were almost as big as galaxies we see today, another odd finding since galaxies grow by colliding with and absorbing other galaxies.

Michelle Doherty from the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge commented: "It could be that these were some of the first galaxies to be born".

Hard data from this era is thin on the ground. Stars and galaxies that old are a long way away from us: 13bn light years, give or take a couple of aeons. This means that their visible light has been absorbed by gas and dust clouds on its journey from the edges of the universe to our little globe.

Infrared radiation is not absorbed, however, so this is where scientists look. And over the last five years researchers in Australia have built a new instrument, dubbed "DAZLE" that will help them in their search.

The Dark Age Redshift Lyman Explorer (DAZLE) has been designed to search for infrared objects that emit no optical radiation whatsoever. It has been optimised to search for faint emission lines in the spectra of very distant galaxies. These frequencies are very hard to spot because the earth's atmosphere glows at very similar frequencies. DAZLE is equipped with special filters to block out this interference, so giving astronomers a clear view into the past.

Dr. Richard McMahon from the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge explained that the instrument will be used to search for objects with a red-shift of up to 8.8. To put that into context, the galaxies found by the team at Exeter have a redshift of six.

"Previous attempts to look back this far in time have so far been unsuccessful, so this could be a groundbreaking observation," he said.

This era in the history of our universe is very interesting because it is around this point that the universe heated up for the second time. After the big bang, the temperature dropped to almost absolute zero, McMahon said.

"However, since humans exist we know that the Universe must have been heated up again. We shall use DAZLE to try to determine exactly when the Universe was heated up for the second time, during the birth of the first stars." ®

Related stories

Galactic prang fingered in star formation mystery
Scientists spot really, really big black hole
Missing galaxies puzzle scientists

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.