Feeds

Herschel Space Observatory spots galaxies merging

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away

Business security measures using SSL

VIDEO The European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory has beamed home pictures of two galaxies inexorably moving towards each other and boffins offered simulations of what happens next.

The galaxies concerned are known as HXMM01, the name given to a bright spot in the sky. Closer examination of HXMM01 tells us it is very old: ESA bods say their redshift of about 2.3 means the pair “dates back to the epoch when the Universe was barely three billion years old. ”Even at that remove, the ESA says its possible to say the close proximity of the galaxies sped up star formation to a rate of about 2,000 a year.

It's also possible to observe a “bridge of gas” across the 65 million light year gap between the two galaxies.

That bridge is “comparable with similar features that we see in merging galaxies in the local Universe” and boffins are therefore willing to call a merger of galaxies, in this Nature (PDF) paper.

In the video below NASA has simulated the event, which the ESA says probably produced a new elliptical galaxy of about 400 billion solar masses.

Watch Video

Many of the suns in the combined galaxy were probably “old and red”, or so we suppose because other galaxies we've spotted of similar vintage display those qualities.The prevalence of such stars in the ancient universe is partially explained by events at HXMM01, as the merger's example of how such stars are made suggests this is how others came into being.

 A pair of merging galaxies in the young Universe discovered with Herschel (left panel) and imaged at higher resolution at near-infrared, sub-millimetre and radio wavelengths (right panel). Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UC Irvine/STScI/Keck/NRAO/SAO

A pair of merging galaxies in the young Universe discovered with Herschel (left panel)
and imaged at higher resolution at near-infrared, sub-millimetre and radio wavelengths (right panel).
Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UC Irvine/STScI/Keck/NRAO/SAO

Boffins are also wondering about the significance of the merger, as few on this scale have been observed in the past. Instead, it's been thought that galactic growth takes place when big ones attract and subsume smaller cosmic collections.

Of course this all happened a long time ago in galaxy far, far away. Stranger even than the ESA's observations may HXMM01 be. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
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
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'
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
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.