Trending Topics

Unstable 'Monster Galaxy' Churns Out Stars A Thousand Times Faster Than Milky Way

Aug 30, 2018 05:59 AM EDT
Artist’s impression of the monster galaxy COSMOS-AzTEC-1. The galaxy, located 12.4 billion light-years away, is the setting of frenetic star formation, which scientists explore in a newly released study.
(Photo : National Astronomical Observatory of Japan)

Billions of light-years from Earth, an ancient monster galaxy is churning out stars at a blisteringly fast pace 1,000 times faster than the Milky Way.

It's no surprise that monster galaxies are also called starburst galaxies due to their unstoppable nature of star formation. However, the process behind the strange phenomenon has been a mystery.

Hyper Production Of Stars In Monster Galaxies

In a new study published in the journal Nature, researchers share a detailed anatomy chart of the chimerical galaxy COSMOS-AzTEC-1, revealing that the molecular clouds found within are extremely unstable. This volatile state is causing runaway star formation in the monster galaxy that is recorded to be 12.4 billion light-years away from Earth.

Previous research has revealed that there is a starburst within the galaxy COSMOS-AzTEC-1, so there must be an abundance of stellar ingredients. However, the nature of these gases is still unclear.

To find out more about the blisteringly rapid star formation in the galaxy, the international team of researchers, led by Ken-ichi Tadaki of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile to map the distribution and the motion of the gas within.

"We found that there are two distinct large clouds several thousand light-years away from the center," Tadaki explains in a statement. "In most distant starburst galaxies, stars are actively formed in the center. So it is surprising to find off-center clouds."

Min Yun, co-author from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, adds that it's also impressive that they found the galaxy with a massive ordered gas disk in regular rotation that's in contrast to more chaotic models predicted.

A Closer Look At The Monster's Star Formation

Further investigation painted a picture of unusual instability in the gas clouds of COSMOS-AzTEC-1 with the outward pressure weaker than the inward surge of gravity.

Normally, these two forces are balanced in the gas clouds until gravity eventually overpowers the pressure and it collapses, giving way to the rapid formation of stars. When these stars reach the end of their life cycle, the stars and supernova explode and eject gases, which boosts the outward pressure. In this process, a balanced state is achieved, and star formation goes on at a moderate pace.

In monster galaxies, the imbalance between the pressure and gravity creates an unstoppable factory of stars. Scientists still don't know what causes the instability, but some suggest a galaxy merger could have spurred the frenzied state.

Monster galaxies are believed to be the predecessors of current massive elliptical galaxies, so these ancient findings could shed more light on the formation and evolution of these stellar neighborhoods.

© 2018 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Join the Conversation

Email Newsletter
About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy Terms&Conditions
Real Time Analytics