Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Star Birth at the Edge of the Universe (Picture of the Day: 4/30/13)

HFLS3, a galaxy churning out 3000 solar masses worth of stars every year. Source

It seems like astronomy these days is rife with new and fantastic discoveries. This new discovery, made by the Herschel observatory, gives us a look back into the beginning of the universe.
Light does not travel instantaneously, so it is possible for us to "look back in time" by observing objects that are extremely far away. With this principle in mind, looking at a galaxy that is 13 billion light years away is like looking 13 billion years into the past. The Herschel observatory has done this itself. It has peered through the inky emptiness of space and viewed a galaxy, HFLS3, that lies 13 billion light years from our own solar system, meaning that we are seeing this object when it was only 800-900 million years old (that's really young). The surprising thing about this, however, is that HFLS3 shows an incredible amount of stellar genesis. This galaxy "is" producing stars at a rate of 3000 solar masses per year. That's an incredibly high rate of formation, higher than any of our models predicted. These new deep-field telescopes are allowing us to peer farther and farther into history, and we are coming up with some pretty impressive things. I predict that our entire way of thinking about astronomy will change soon.
For more information, check out this article or this article.

The dots in red are galaxies that have extreme rates of stellar formation.

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