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ALMA: Water Dew Drops Discovered at Spiderweb Galaxy

Jul 04, 2016 11:30 PM EDT
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Astronomers found out that there were water dew drops outside the core of the Spiderweb galaxy.
(Photo : NASA/CXC/MIT/F.K.Baganoff/Getty Images)

Water droplets also occur outside the Earth, as observed by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

Astronomers spotted glowing water dew droplets made up of condensed water in the Spiderweb galaxy. But the droplets weren't anywhere near where experts expected them to be. The water dew drops were located far out in the galaxy, which means that the droplets cannot be associated with the central star-forming region of the galaxy as originally believed.

"We usually interpret them as an insight into star-forming regions, with the illumination from young stars warming dust particles and water molecules until they start to glow. Now, thanks to the power of ALMA, we can separate out the emissions from the dust and water populations, and pinpoint their exact origins in the galaxy," Dr. Gullberg, of the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy said in a statement. "The results are quite unexpected in that we've found that the water is located nowhere near the dusty stellar nurseries," Dr. Gullberg added.

Astronomers were studying one of the biggest galaxies known to men, the Spiderweb when the made the discovery. Spiderweb is 10 billion light-years away and it is made up of dozens of star-forming galaxies merging together. Although the water dew drops were not connected to the dusty center of the galaxy, they are visible and concentrated in two farther regions, on the east and west of the core.

The Spiderweb Galaxy is one of the most massive galaxies known. It lies 10 billion light-years away and is made up of dozens of star-forming galaxies in the process of merging together. The ALMA observations show that the light from the dust originates in the Spiderweb Galaxy itself. However, the light from the water is concentrated in two regions far to the east and west of the galaxy core.

The study claims that this will help astronomers in understanding the location and origins of light in the universe and in understanding star formations. "Stars are born out of cold, dense molecular gas. The regions in the Spiderweb where we've detected water are currently too hot for stars to form. But the interaction with the radio jets changes the composition of the gas clouds. When the molecules have cooled down again, it will be possible for the seeds of new stars to form," Dr. Gullberg said in a press release by the Royal Astronomical Society. These "dew drop" regions could become the next stellar nurseries in this massive, complex galaxy," Dr. Gullberg added.

The study was presented at the National Astronomy Meeting 2016 on July 1. Dr. Gullberg explained that the results were unexpected because the water droplets are believed to exist near the stellar nurseries in the core of the galaxy.

 

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