Feeds

Astronomers spot 13-BEEELLION-year-old hot galactic threesome

Peeping toms probe the secrets of big gas bubble

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Pics Using a combination of space and ground-based telescopes, astronomers have discovered three primitive galaxies slowly merging in a bubble of primordial elements.

Galaxy threeway

Galaxies need to get a room

The galactic cluster was first spotted in 2009 by NASA space-scope Hubble and is located around 13 billion light-years distant, meaning they were formed in the first six per cent of the universe's lifetime – that's about 800 million years from the Big Bang, or some 13 billion years ago from now.

At first it was thought the bubble, dubbed Himiko, was a single proto-galaxy, but it was ten times larger than would be expected for that early era and 100 times brighter than its neighbors - piquing astronomers' interest.

The bubble has now been scoped out with the Spitzer space telescope, and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile has provided a chemical analysis. The resulting picture shows not one, but three small galaxies slowly merging into a single body in a flare of energy.

Hubble shot of triple galaxy merger

Hot primordial passion in distant universe

"This exceedingly rare triple system, seen when the Universe was only 800 million years old, provides important insights into the earliest stages of galaxy formation during a period known as 'Cosmic Dawn,' when the Universe was first bathed in starlight," said Richard Ellis, the Steele Professor of Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology.

"Even more interesting, these galaxies appear poised to merge into a single massive galaxy, which could eventually evolve into something akin to the Milky Way."

But the Himiko cluster results, published in December's Astrophysical Journal, poses something of a dilemma for cosmologists. ALMA's observations show the composition of the cluster is not what current theories would suggest.

"When this dust is heated by ultraviolet radiation from massive newborn stars, the dust then re-radiates at radio wavelengths," remarked Kotaro Kohno, a member of the team also with the University of Tokyo. "Such radiation is not detected in Himiko."

In addition, the cluster shows no evidence of containing carbon, which would be expected given the nature of the galaxies and their position in the universe's history. More exploration by ALMA is going to be needed once its 66 antennas come fully online.

"Astronomers are usually excited when a signal from an object is detected. But, in this case, it's the absence of a signal from heavy elements that is the most exciting result!" Ellis said. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.