A group of scientists obtained a stunning image of a distant galaxy, reminding us all how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things.
This ‘monster galaxy’ is approximately 12 billion light-years from Earth and generates new stars 1,000 times faster than our own Milky Way galaxy.
Scientists used Chile’s $1.5 billion ALMA Observatory to capture views of the galaxy with a resolution ten times higher than any previous attempt, dubbed ‘COSMOS-AzTEC-1.’
The measurements revealed previously unknown details about the structure of this starburst galaxy, which is thought to have formed in the first billion years after the Big Bang.
‘We found that there are two distinct large clouds several thousand light-years away from the center,’ said Ken-ichi Tadaki, of the National Astronomical Observatory in Tokyo, Japan which worked with the University of Massachusetts Amherst to make the observations.
That’s a significant achievement.
The Milky Way is made up of a single, dense center with spiral arms extending outwards. COSMOS-AzTEC-1, on the other hand, has three cores – or two smaller cores with their own discs several light-years away from the central one.
‘In most distant starburst galaxies, stars are actively formed in the center. So it is surprising to find off-center clouds,’ Tadaki said.
This galaxy appears to be highly unstable in comparison to other galaxies.
According to the researchers, the massive cloud of gas in the galaxy exerts too much pressure on the core, which the outward spin cannot compensate for. In a typical galaxy, gravity pushing inwards and pressure pushing outwards are balanced. This one, on the other hand, is going through a massive gravitational collapse, which is most likely what is causing its rapid star formation.
The entire monstrous galaxy, according to the team, will disintegrate in about 100 million years. However, they have yet to explain how it became so enormous in the first place.