Mexican astronomers image one of the first galaxies to form

G09 83808 "turned out to be enormous, which implies that it is 13,200 million years old”
Starry night – Photo: EFE
09/01/2018
15:18
Newsroom
Mexico City
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Mexican astronomers discovered one of the oldest galaxies detected so far, referred to as G09 83808.

A team of astronomers headed by Jorge A. Zavala and David Hughs of the National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics, and Electronics (INAOE) and Vladimir Ávila Reese of the Institute of Astronomy (IA) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Even though it is not the oldest galaxy known to date, G09 83808 arose when the Universe was less than one-fifth of its current age, Ávila Reese told the Forum Advisory Scientific and Technological (FCCyT).

Nowadays, it is possible to see elliptical, spiral, or irregular galaxies, yet it was not always like that.

"How many of these galaxies are there and how big are they remain a mystery, that's why many projects have been developed to observe the Universe, such as the one carried out at the Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT)."

G09 83808 was studied using the LMT, located on the summit of an extinct volcano in Mexico's central state of Puebla, operated jointly by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Mexico’s INAOE as part of a program that observed sources in the far infrared, previously detected with a mapping made by the Hershel Telescope.

G09 83808 "turned out to be enormous, which implies that it is 13,200 million years old, that is, it arose when the Universe was only 900 million years old," he said.

Later, astronomers also observed G09 83808 using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an astronomical interferometer of radio telescopes in the Atacama desert of northern Chile which allowed to know that it is an observable object thanks to the amplification of its signal with a gravitational lens.

"A galaxy was discovered in its early childhood, totally imbibed in dust, which is quite challenging, because there had to be a previous generation of stars that would form dust generating molecules, processes that we thought were subsequent," Ávila Reese added.

G09 83808 is very similar to other galaxies that are known today, yet the astronomers did not think that they could exist at such a primary time, he said.

"It is important to clarify that this is only one galaxy, we need to see if we find more and if they are common in that time of the Universe, which would require a revision of our models of the evolution of galaxies, something that we want to try taking advantage of gravitational lens,"he concluded.

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