A team of astronomers in Australia and the United States has discovered a gigantic galaxy, dating back to the young Universe. The new discovery is hiding in cosmic clouds of dust.
The researchers said that the finding offers new understandings on some of the most massive galaxies located in the Universe.
Ivo Labbé, a study co-author from the Swinburne University of Technology, Australia, explained that they arrived at the conclusion that the galaxy is a gigantic monster galaxy with a similar number of stars as our Milky Way. The stars must be chock-full of activity, creating new stars at 100 times the rate of our own galaxy.
To better understand the discovery, the team of astronomers utilized the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a network of 66 radio telescopes placed in the mountains of Chile.
A Cosmic ‘Yeti’ Lurking in Clouds of Dust
Initially, the astronomers, more precisely Christina Williams, the lead author of the study, said she observed a dim blob of light.
“It was very mysterious, but the light seemed not to be linked to any known galaxy at all. 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,” Williams detailed.
According to the team, the signal came from such an aloof distance that it took almost 12.5 billion years to reach our planet. At that time, the scientific field suggests the universe was at its dawn.
The observed emission originates from the warm brightness of dust particles heated by stars taking form deep inside a young galaxy. The massive clouds of dust hid the starlight, making the galaxy entirely invisible.
Researchers believe the finding may help solve a long-term mystery the astronomy world has faced with regards to how some of the most massive galaxies in the young Universe seem to have increased and matured incredibly quickly, combating hypothetical predictions.
Models Fail to Explain Them
What appears to be even more surprising is the fact that these mature galaxies seem to appear from nowhere. Scientists never seem to catch them while they take shape. Moreover, smaller galaxies discovered in the early Universe using the Hubble Space Telescope are not expanding sufficiently fast, the researchers explain.
“Our hidden monster galaxy has precisely the right ingredients to be that missing link because they are probably a lot more common,” said Williams.
The research was conducted on only a small part of the sky, less than 1/100th the size of the Moon. Discovering trails of the ‘cosmic Yeti’ in a tiny fragment of the cosmos means either this was pure luck, or such galaxies are draped and hiding everywhere.
Williams and her team are intending to use the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to take a look and monitor these cosmic bodies, as soon as the advanced telescope will be put to work in 2021.
The revolutionary instrument will be capable of looking through the clouds of dust. This way, researchers will be able to conclude the size of these galaxies, how fast they are expanding, and comprehend the reason why models fail to explain them.