News / Science & Technology

Telescopes Spot Colliding Galaxies

Several telescopes have teamed up to discover a rare and massive merging of two galaxies that took place when the universe was just 3 billion years old (its current age is about 14 billion years). (Photo: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UC Irvine/STScI/Keck/NRAO/SAO
Several telescopes have teamed up to discover a rare and massive merging of two galaxies that took place when the universe was just 3 billion years old (its current age is about 14 billion years). (Photo: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UC Irvine/STScI/Keck/NRAO/SAO

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Astronomers have gotten a rare glimpse of two distant and ancient galaxies merging.

The galaxies, called HXMM01, are about 11 billion light years from Earth, meaning they offer a look at the universe when it was only 3 billion years old. Inside the massive formation are some 400 billion stars.

Astronomers have long wondered how galaxies grew. When the universe was three to four billion years old, it was believed to have been populated with large reddish elliptical-shaped galaxies made up of old stars. Scientists wanted to know if those galaxies built up over time or formed through collisions.

According to NASA, HXMM01 suggests that massive mergers of galaxies are responsible for giant elliptical galaxies.

"We're looking at a younger phase in the life of these galaxies -- an adolescent burst of activity that won't last very long," said Hai Fu of the University of California at Irvine, who is lead author of a new study describing the results. The study is published in the May 22 online issue of Nature.

The merging galaxies are massive star factories, creating over 2,000 stars a year, NASA said. The Milky Way gives birth to two or three stars a year by comparison.

NASA said that the merging of galaxies is fairly common, but that HXMM01 is unusual “because of the prolific amounts of gas and star formation, and the sheer size of the merger at such a distant epoch.”

HXMM01 was spotted by the Herschel space observatory, a European Space Agency with follow up studies by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope.

Below is a NASA simulation of the collision. It shows  the merging of two massive galaxies, sped up to cover 1.5 billion years of time. The merging galaxies are split into two views: a visible-light view is on the left, in which blue shows young stars and red indicates older stars and dust. The view at right shows emission from dust, which is what infrared telescopes like the Herschel Space Observatory see. When the galaxies finally merge, the strong burst of star formation can be seen best in infrared views.

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Comment Sorting
by: Ritika from: YsxinMulEbz
June 03, 2013 12:27 PM
Mette, you are an artist of refioctlens! They are fantastic. I have a feeling that I am looking at parallel worlds.Beautiful photography and very impressive. Love it very, very much.I wish you a beautiful week and creative!!!

by: Ettore Greco
May 24, 2013 2:53 PM
Contrary to what science still believes, at the time of the Big Bang there were no atoms but only waves carrying energy through the infinite Void. If we could view the Universe from outside, It would look like an egg-shaped cloud with winds running in perpetual motion inside of It. The energy is like those winds running at maximum speed and pushing out the borders of the Universe.

The Universe continues to expand as the waves that travel at the border of the Universe have never encountered, nor will ever encounter, any interference from the Void. These waves will forever expand the Space of the Universe they create and leave behind. Wave-behavior relates to the medium in which the waves travel.

Thus, wave-behavior at the border of the Universe is different than wave-behavior within the Universe. Inside the Universe, waves change their frequencies by colliding with other energy during their travel. These waves, because of the encountered interference, continue to transform part of their original energy in other forms. Waves travel gradually releasing heat, or amounts of energy, and their original short wavelengths, in time become longer and longer as they carry less and less energy than they did when they first started to travel. These waves lose energy releasing it in form of other waves with wavelengths longer than their own.

For example, the gamma rays, over time, diminish their energy level (and their frequency) to become X rays, from X rays they will become ultraviolet and so on. The original quantum is not lost but distributed into other forms of energy through "spontaneous symmetry breaking".

Once reached an almost flat longitude (and lower critical energy level) these waves solidify into hydrogen atoms breaking up their energy in opposite elements, like the split ends of a broken hair. When the hydrogen atoms are reached by the heat of other incoming waves they fuse together to create more complex forms of energy.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
May 24, 2013 12:00 PM
Story story...; Once upon a time... Cock and bull stories abound in every age and race. In Nigeria we are told stories of how the tortoise tricked the lion; why the lizard cannot talk, etc. In scientific economies of Europe and America we are told of how the galaxies interact and things that are done light years ago which the ordinary man has no way of verifying - the star wars. Well and good for you. But if you must know anything, what the ordinary man wants to see apart from the fables acted out at Hollywood, is the eureka solution to common diseases that are growing more scientific than the scientist.

Rather than find solution to man's problems, scientists are creating more by trying to hoodwink humanity with views of colliding comets that retrospectively happened not within verifiable time range, but out of and beyond human faculties. Haba scientists! Is this what you wish to contribute to this age? We wish to see cure for illnesses and aging; we want to find cure for depression and oppressions; we love to have a world where the most intricate of accidents will no longer be life threatening because of cure availability. Showing us a world that existed trillions of years before now does not achieve progress except trick the imagination.

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