Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Ancient Galaxy Stars

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Ancient Galaxy Stars

Article excerpt

Astronomers, including the University of California, Riverside's Bahram Mobasher and graduate student Hooshang Nayyeri, have discovered that one of the most distant galaxies known is churning out stars at a shockingly high rate. The researchers made the discovery using NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes. The blob-shaped galaxy, called GN-108036, is the brightest galaxy found to date at such great distances.

The galaxy, which was discovered and confirmed using ground-based telescopes, is 12.9 billion light-years away. Data from Spitzer and Hubble were used to measure the galaxy's high star-production rate, equivalent to about 100 suns per year. For reference, our Milky Way galaxy is about five times larger and 100 times more massive than GN-108036 but makes roughly 30 times fewer stars per year.

Previous surveys hadn't found galaxies this bright so early in the history of the universe. According to the researchers, GN-108036 may be a special, rare object that they happened to catch during an extreme burst of star formation.

The international team of astronomers, led by Masami Ouchi of the University of Tokyo, first identified the remote galaxy after scanning a large patch of sky with the Subaru Telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Its great distance was then carefully confirmed with the W.M. Keck Observatory, also on Mauna Kea.

GN-108036 lies near the very beginning of time itself, a mere 750 million years after the big bang occurred 13.7 billion years ago. Its light has taken 12.9 billion years to reach us, so we are seeing it as it existed in the distant past.

Astronomers refer to the object's distance by a number called its redshift, which relates to how much its light has stretched to longer, redder wavelengths due to the expansion of the universe. …

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