NOV 06, 2017 07:15 AM PST

Astronomers Probe the Universe's Oldest-Known Spiral Galaxy

Astronomers employing the Near-infrared Integral Field Spectrograph (NIFS) situated on the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii have made strides in acquiring more information about what many experts consider to be the oldest-known spiral galaxy discovered to date in our universe.

Their work has been published in a paper available on the arXiv.org server.

Image Credit: James Josephides

Dubbed A1689B11, this super-old galaxy existed more than 11 billion years ago, and it's captivating astronomers’ interest because of just how rare spiral galaxies were in the early universe.

Obtaining a better understanding how spiral galaxies like this one came to be in the early universe is essential. In doing so, we can validate current theories or postulate fresher and more reliable ones.

Not only was A1689B11 archaic, but it was also exceptionally far away from us. In fact, many space-based observatories don’t possess the optical power needed to gaze upon it. Astronomers circumvent this quandary by tapping into an ingenious method dubbed gravitational lensing.

Related: A gravitational lensing effect multiplied images of this supernova

As experts put it, dene matter scattered throughout outer space exhibit gravitational fields, and these can bend and distort light just like real lenses can. Galaxy clusters, dark matter, and various other forms of matter floating around in the vacuum of outer space can generate these effects.

"This technique allows us to study ancient galaxies in high resolution with unprecedented detail," said study lead author Dr. Tiantian Yuan. "We are able to look 11 billion years back in time and directly witness the formation of the first, primitive spiral arms of a galaxy."

Among their conclusions, A1689B11 produced stars at roughly the same rate of speed as other differently-shaped primordial galaxies of similar masses; that’s about 20 times faster than modern galaxies. Nevertheless, there are still some discrepancies that continue to pique astronomers' interest.

A1689B11 also exhibits little turbulence compared to other galaxies from around the same period, and its rotating disk is both thinner and cooler than experts presumed. These results are shocking, as researchers haven't seen anything quite like it before.

“Studying ancient spirals like A1689B11 is a key to unlocking the mystery of how and when the Hubble sequence emerges,” explained study co-author Dr. Renyue Cen.

“Spiral galaxies are exceptionally rare in the early universe, and this discovery opens the door to investigating how galaxies transition from highly chaotic, turbulent discs to tranquil, thin discs like those of our own Milky Way galaxy.”

Related: Astronomers classify a new type of galaxy structure

There’s unquestionably much to learn from A1689B11 that can sharpen our knowledge about the early universe. Unfortunately, modern technology has its limits. Perhaps the James Webb Space Telescope will be of use in studying primordial galaxies after it launches in just a couple more years.

Source: Phys.org

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUN 20, 2018
Videos
JUN 20, 2018
Is it Too Dangerous to Send Humans to Mars?
As it turns out, we have it pretty good on Earth; the planet’s magnetic field keeps us safe from most forms of harmful cosmic radiation that can dama...
JUN 28, 2018
Microbiology
JUN 28, 2018
Stopping Bacterial Spores From Getting Into Space
Researchers want to stop the contamination of extraterrestrial environments by earthly bacteria....
JUL 02, 2018
Technology
JUL 02, 2018
Video: Listen to Satellites With NASA Sound Art
The Orbit Pavilion Delivers Satellite Data as Sound...
JUL 03, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 03, 2018
Astronomers Capture the Formation of a Young Exoplanet
The mechanisms responsible for planetary formation have captivated astronomers for as long as we can remember, but a newly-captured image of a distant star...
AUG 07, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 07, 2018
Why Does the James Webb Space Telescope Keep Getting Delayed?
The James Webb Space Telescope is set to become NASA’s latest and greatest space-based observatory, superseding the Hubble Space Telescope as the big...
SEP 02, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 02, 2018
International Space Station Crew Repairs Small Air Leak
The International Space Station is an Earth-orbiting laboratory that operates in the vacuum of outer space. That said, it needs to maintain a constant air...
Loading Comments...