Astronomers Spot 80 of the Oldest Galaxies

Posted March 14th, 2016 at 2:23 pm (UTC-4)
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Advancing technology is making it possible for scientists to investigate the early universe.

About 200 million years after the Big Bang, it is thought that clumps of condensed primordial cold gas clouds provided material for the first stars to be born. As stars were created they formed small galaxies.

An international team of researchers are now saying that they’ve discovered about 80 galaxies that may have existed in the young universe about 12.6 billion years ago, which is around 1.2 billion years after the Big Bang.

The research team comes from Japan’s Ehime University, Nagoya University, and Tohoku University and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) at Johns Hopkins University and the California Institute of Technology, in the U.S.

The team developed a list of galaxies to look for from data gathered by the Subaru Suprime Focus Camera (Suprime-Cam) instrument.

The Suprime-Cam is an 80-megapixel optical camera attached to the prime focus of the Subaru Telescope at the Mauna Kea Observatory, Hawaii.

With that information they were able to locate these 80 early galaxies and were able to conduct a detailed analysis on imaging data gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope’s (HST) Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).

The ACS is the Hubble’s prime imaging instrument.

The researchers were able to determine that around 1.2 billion years after the Big Bang these small galaxies were continuously merging together and growing into larger galaxies like our own Milky Way, which contains about 200 billion stars.

The researchers outlined their findings in a paper that was published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Speaking of galaxies growing as a result of mergers, some scientists say that in about 4 billion years the Milky Way and the neighboring Andromeda galaxy will collide into each other and become one.

The new galaxy created by this merger of the Milky Way with Andromeda galaxies has been nicknamed Milkomeda.

According to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), the Milky Way is zooming towards the Andromeda galaxy, at a rate of about 120 kilometers per second.

Both the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are part a group of galaxies known as “The Local Group“.

This grouping of galaxies also includes about forty other, much smaller galaxies and all are bound together by gravity.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

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