Astronomer Christina Williams discovered a dim trace of light that led her to the identification of a chimerical galaxy. The discovery was made by chance, as the University of Arizona scientist saw the sparkling dob in new data from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array located in Chile.
However, something didn’t make sense. The light was quite independent in a region without a known galaxy.
“When I saw this galaxy was invisible at any other wavelength, I got really excited because it meant that it was probably really far away and hidden by clouds of dust,” said Williams, lead research author of a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal.
Without intending, Williams discovered the tracks leading to an enormous galaxy from the start of the Universe, about 12.5 billion years ago. This means the light took exactly that long to appear visible on Earth.
No Data On How the Galaxy Formed
The scientists compared the light to discovering a set of footprints belonging to a fictitious monster, like the Yeti. This is because, as of now, because of no available data, astronomers didn’t consider they could exist.
The light was probably originated by dust particles that were heated by the stars as they took shape inside a galaxy. However, the dust clouds blocked the stars, which basically made the galaxy itself imperceptible to us.
Ivo Labbé, the study co-author at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, said that the team understood the galaxy is, in fact, a massive giant galaxy. It likely hosts as many stars as the Milky Way, but it is abounding with activity, shaping new stars at 100 times the pace of our galaxy.
Prior to this new discovery, astronomers had no evidence whatsoever of massive galaxies from the dawn of the Universe as they took shape. However, they observed that some of the most massive known galaxies matured when the Universe was still young. So far, nothing was discovered in between to imply formation.
“Our hidden monster galaxy has precisely the right ingredients to be that missing link because they are probably a lot more common,” Williams said.
When NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launches (in 2021), it could help observe these galaxies even further.