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These Gargantuan Galaxies, Hidden in Plain Sight, Could Rewrite Universe’s Early Days… Treasure trove of new galaxies defies current models of the universe

“These objects (some of them) already existed 13.6 billion years ago! The remnants of the previous universe! Same goes for super massive black holes that are older than 13.6 billion years… anything else you find that is older than 13.6 billion years…
JUST LET THE GUTCP INTO YOUR LIFE BABY!” 😀

These Gargantuan Galaxies, Hidden in Plain Sight, Could Rewrite Universe’s Early Days

By Meghan Bartels a day ago Science & Astronomy 

An artist's depiction of some of the newly discovered galaxies.

An artist’s depiction of some of the newly discovered galaxies. (Image: © NAOJ)

It’s the ultimate magic of science, when using a different instrument reveals what was hidden in plain sight.

Researchers used a pair of instruments to accomplish just such a feat, spotting dozens of massive galaxies located billions of light-years away busy making huge numbers of stars. These finds could rewrite scientists’ understanding of how the early universe worked — and if the galaxies were visible to humans, they would overwhelm our view of the heavens, researchers said.

“For one thing, the night sky would appear far more majestic. The greater density of stars means there would be many more stars close by appearing larger and brighter,” lead researcher Tao Wang, an astronomer at the University of Tokyo, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, said in a statement. “But conversely, the large amount of dust means farther-away stars would be far less visible, so the background to these bright, close stars might be a vast, dark void.”

But humans will never be able to see these galaxies directly, which is why it took so long for scientists to find the objects in the first place. Because of their distance from Earth and the type of light they produce, they are invisible to the Hubble Space Telescope, which sees approximately the same types of light as our eyes do.

Instead, the researchers turned first to data gathered by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, identifying 63 previously unknown objects. But the team couldn’t quite make out what those objects were. So the astronomers turned to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a spread of radio dishes in Chile. The instrument established that 39 of the objects were massive galaxies each producing huge numbers of stars, the equivalent of 1,000 of our suns every year. 

The newly discovered galaxies can't be seen in Hubble Space Telescope images but are visible to the ALMA instrument.
The newly discovered galaxies can’t be seen in Hubble Space Telescope images but are visible to the ALMA instrument. 

That finding is particularly intriguing, because these objects are so far away that scientists are seeing them as they were in the first 2 billion years of the universe. (Gazing at very distant objects like these galaxies automatically implies looking back in time, because light requires time to travel across such great distances.)

Scientists knew that there should be some objects like these out there, and the researchers said that as these galaxies age, they should turn into massive elliptical galaxies like those we see closer to the Milky Way. But the team found 10 times more of these young galaxies than the researchers expected to see based on current ideas about how the early universe worked. 

The ALMA array includes 66 individual telescope antennas deployed in Chile.
The ALMA array includes 66 individual telescope antennas deployed in Chile. 

In particular, the findings suggest that current estimates of the amount of dark matter in the universe might be wrong, since those estimates make it unlikely that so many large objects would appear early in the universe’s life.

The astronomers behind the new research said they hope the James Webb Space Telescope will provide better data about additional galaxies that Hubble can’t see. These observations could help scientists update their theories about the universe’s early days.

The research was described in a paper published today (Aug. 7) in the journal Nature. 

Treasure trove of new galaxies defies current models of the universe

Series of radio telescope dishes pointing to the sky against a darkening sky.

Some of the 66 radio telescope antennas that make up ALMA. Image: Kohno et al/PA

The discovery of ‘previously invisible’ galaxies is important as their existence undermines the rules of the universe that have already been set out.

The mystery of what happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, may finally have some light shed on it. Astronomers have discovered what they say is a treasure trove of previously unknown massive ancient galaxies. It is the first multiple discovery of its kind and such an abundance of this type of galaxy defies current models of the universe, researchers said.

The study published in the Nature journal sets out that the galaxies are also intimately connected with supermassive black holes and the distribution of dark matter. Researcher Tao Wang from the University of Tokyo said: “This is the first time that such a large population of massive galaxies was confirmed during the first two billion years of the 13.7-billion-year life of the universe.

“These were previously invisible to us. This finding contravenes current models for that period of cosmic evolution and will help to add some details, which have been missing until now.”

Invisible to the human eye, the light from the 39 galaxies was detected using the combined power of multiple astronomical observatories around the world.

Hard to spot

Prof Kotaro Kohno explained: “The light from these galaxies is very faint with long wavelengths invisible to our eyes and undetectable by Hubble.

“So we turned to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), which is ideal for viewing these kinds of things. I have a long history with that facility and so knew it would deliver good results.”

Scientists say that despite these galaxies being the largest of their time, the light from them is not only weak but also stretched due to their immense distance. As the universe expands, light passing through becomes stretched, so visible light becomes longer, eventually becoming infrared.

Image of the huge cluster of ancient galaxies and close-up photos on the right.

Ancient galaxies from the study are visible to ALMA (right) but not to Hubble. Image: Wang et al/PA

Astronomers are able to calculate how far away something is by analysing the amount of stretching. This also indicates how long ago the light was emitted. Another reason these galaxies appear so weak is because larger galaxies, even in the present day, tend to be shrouded in dust, which obscures them more than their smaller galactic siblings.

Wang said: “It was tough to convince our peers these galaxies were as old as we suspected them to be. Our initial suspicions about their existence came from the Spitzer Space Telescope’s infrared data.

“But ALMA has sharp eyes and revealed details at submillimetre wavelengths, the best wavelength to peer through dust present in the early universe. Even so, it took further data from the imaginatively named Very Large Telescope in Chile to really prove we were seeing ancient massive galaxies where none had been seen before.”

Uncovering ‘primordial beasts’

The bigger a galaxy, the bigger the supermassive blackhole at its heart, said the scientists. So the study of the new galaxies and their evolution will tell researchers about the evolution of their blackholes too.

“Massive galaxies are also intimately connected with the distribution of invisible dark matter. This plays a role in shaping the structure and distribution of galaxies. Theoretical researchers will need to update their theories now,” said Kohno.

The researchers also set out how the newly discovered galaxies differ from the Milky Way.

Wang said: “For one thing, the night sky would appear far more majestic. The greater density of stars means there would be many more stars close by appearing larger and brighter.

“But conversely, the large amount of dust means farther-away stars would be far less visible, so the background to these bright close stars might be a vast dark void.”

He added that he was eager for upcoming observatories such as the space-based James Webb Space Telescope to show us “what these primordial beasts are really made of”.

– PA Media

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