A team of scientists have made a remarkable discovery today. The astronomers have used the ALMA telescope to witness one of the young galaxies in our universe while still in its formation stages.
The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) is located in Chile and was built for the purpose of viewing the formation of distant stars, planets or other bodies and structures within the universe. These information is then used to better understand how our very universe evolved over time.
The telescope array is the most powerful and accurate instrument of its kind. A research team led by Cambridge University’s expert Roberto Moialinio has used the instrument to look for distant galaxies and their work did not go unrewarded.
Up until now, the conventional approach was to use the telescope to detect the light of the stars, since they are the most visible and common bodies in the universe. Afterwards, these stars are linked into larger groups by scientists who then try to see if they fit into galaxy-like patterns.
But Maialinio and his team took another approach. They began looking for a galaxy from the start and instead of searching for groups of stars, they traced the carbon signatures emanating from enormous clouds of gas. It is thought that these type of clouds are the originating point of most stars.
This has led them to discover BDF 3299, a galaxy found in the first stages of its formation. The gas clouds that surround it will most likely provide the galaxy with more stars as in begins to assemble itself into a body with a more easily do define structure.
It is clear that even though the galaxy is very young, it already has an internal structure composed of a few star systems that are slowly re-organizing themselves as the system develops. Previously, it was thought that galaxies in such incipient stages were nothing more than large masses of gas.
The discovery represents a breakthrough in the field, as it allows astronomers to actually observe the processes that contribute to a galaxy’s formation. They can now better understand how our own galaxy came into being. And perhaps, later on, even how our entire universe was formed.
While this is ALMA’s most distant observation so far, the research team believes that the instrument has a yet to reach its full potential. They are eager to use the telescope to search for even younger parts of our universe.
Image Source: alma.asiaa.sinica.edu.tw