Six dead galaxies discovered by the Hubble Telescope are confusing scientists

Mysterious disappearance

It may be thought that in the early universe large galaxies should have had a lot of “fuel” left for the new stars, but the latest discovery shows that this was not always the case.

Using a Hubble Space Telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter and Submilimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers have discovered six early galaxies (about 3 billion years after the Big Bang) that were unusually “dead,” lacking the cold hydrogen they needed. to form. According to lead researcher Kate Whitaker, this was the largest period of star birth, so the disappearance of this hydrogen is a mystery.

Joseph DePasquale (STScI) / Extracted and zoomed images of two dead early galaxies captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and ALMA

The team detected the galaxies due to strong gravitational lensing as the galaxy clusters bend and increase the light of the early universe. The telescope detected where stars had formed in the past, and ALMA detected cold dust (a hydrogen substitute) to show where the stars would have formed if the necessary ingredients had been available.

Galaxies are thought to have expanded since then, but not due to star formation. Rather, they grew by merging with other small galaxies and gases. Any formation after that would have been no more than limited.

These discoveries are proof of the combined capabilities of Hubble and ALMA, not to mention Hubble’s capabilities decades after its launch. At the same time, they emphasize the limitations of both technology and human understanding, as they raise a number of questions.

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Scientists do not know why the galaxies died so quickly and what happened that ran out of fuel. Was the gas heated, expelled, or just consumed quickly? It may take some time for answers to be provided, if answers are possible at all.


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