Scientists look across the universe and find an ancient galactic collision

Astronomers set their sights on an incredibly distant area, more than 90 percent of the observable universe, and found the beginning of a massive cosmic collision, according to two new studies.

The accident they witnessed is an early training stage for the largest type of structure in the known universe, and recent findings suggest that the process took much less time than computer models suggest. In addition, the abundance of dusty areas that form stars in this collision raises questions about how galaxies evolve.

Both research studies focused on a galactic collision that scientists believe has already happened. Fourteen galaxies, collectively known as SPT2349-56, are replete with newly created stars, according to a recent statement from the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The reason why ESO defines it as an imminent collapse is because, from Earth, we still can not see what is currently happening at the site of the merger. That's because light takes a long time to travel from that region in space. [ & # 39; Mega City & # 39; galactic shows mysterious star formation points (images)]

  This artist's impression of SPT2349-56 shows a group of galaxies that interact and fuse in the early universe.

The impression of this artist from SPT2349 -56 shows a group of galaxies that interact and merge in the early universe.

Credit: M. Kornmesser / ESO

According to Ivan Oteo, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh and lead author of one of the studies, his team's work reveals unexpected findings about the explosive regions. "It is believed that the useful life of dusty explosions is relatively short, because they consume their gas at an extraordinary rate," he said in the statement. "At any moment, in any corner of the Universe, these galaxies tend to be a minority, so finding numerous explosions of dusty stars that shine at the same time is somewhat disconcerting, and something we still have to understand"


Scott Chapman, an astrophysicist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, who worked on the second study, also commented on his team's finding that the training stage took less time than expected. "Having trapped a massive cluster of galaxies in [the] the agony of the formation is spectacular in itself," he said. "But the fact that this happens so early in the history of the universe poses a formidable challenge to our current understanding of how structures are formed in the universe."

  An artistic impression of the 14 galaxies detected by Atacama Great millimeter / submillimeter matrix. They appear in the very early and distant universe, and these galaxies are in the process of merging to finally form the nucleus of a cluster of massive galaxies.

An artistic impression of the 14 galaxies detected by Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array. They appear in the very early and distant universe, and these galaxies are in the process of merging to finally form the nucleus of a massive cluster of galaxies.

Credit: S. Dagnello; NSF / NRAO / AUI

International teams of scientists used the Atacama Large Milimeter / Submillimeter Array (ALMA) and Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescopes to go back in time to when the universe was one tenth of its current age. SPT2349-56 is about 12,400 million light-years away, and this means that the light of this structure began to travel towards Earth when the universe was about 1.4 billion years old. (The universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old).

SPT2349-56 is a so-called protocluster, which is believed to be the state of building blocks for the largest known structure that exists, a cluster of galaxies.

Individual galaxies in galaxy clusters are held together by dark matter, according to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory . During the first few million years of the universe, dark matter (and normal matter) began to accumulate in higher concentrations, eventually creating clusters of galaxies. It is believed that some clusters contain up to thousands of galaxies.

To study the formation stage exhibited by the protocluster, the researchers ran observation data from the ALMA telescope through computer simulations. The two teams discovered that what they were witnessing occurred less than 1.4 billion years after the Big Bang. However, existing theoretical and computational models suggest that a protocluster as large as SPT2349-56 should have taken much longer to evolve.

"How this set of galaxies became so big, so fast is a mystery," Tim Miller, a doctoral candidate at Yale University and lead author of one of the newspapers, said in the statement. "It did not build up gradually over billions of years, as astronomers would expect," says the discovery, which offers a great opportunity to study how massive galaxies came together to build huge clusters of galaxies.

The research was presented today (April 25) in two articles. The work of Miller's team appears in the journal Nature, and the work of the team led by Oteo appears in The Astrophysical Journal.

Follow Doris Elin Salazar on Twitter @salazar_elin . Follow us @Spacedotcom Facebook and Google+. Original article on

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