Yale astronomers have at last gotten a first look at the formation of "the universe's monster galaxies," Phys.org reports, and the results are fascinating.
The research, which used data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, ESA's Herschel Space Observatory, and the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, was published Wednesday in the journal Nature. It marks the first time astronomers have seen the earliest stages of a massive galaxy's formation.
The Keck II telescope's Near Infrared Spectograph allowed the astronomers to watch the galaxy — officially called GOODS-N-774 but nicknamed "Sparky" — produce massive amounts of stars. Witnessing this formation gave them new insight into how ancient galaxies may have formed 11 billion years ago — only 3 billion years after the Big Bang.
The scientists found that Sparky's formation is unique to the early universe that it developed in: its rapid gas movement was often violent, and it produced as many as 300 stars per year — an astounding amount of stars, especially considering its relatively tiny size (it measured roughly 6,000 light-years across). The Milky Way, by contrast, only produces roughly 10 stars annually, but spans 100,000 light-years.
"I think our discovery settles the question of whether this mode of building galaxies actually happened or not," said Pieter van Dokkum, one of the Yale astronomers. "The question now is, 'How often did this occur?' We suspect there are other galaxies like this that are even fainter in near-infrared wavelengths. We had been searching for this galaxy for years, and it's very exciting that we finally found it." --Meghan DeMaria
space.com A telescope on Earth has spotted huge storms brewing on the planet Uranus. Scientists using the Keck Observatory in Hawaii have recently seen a number of storms develop on the planet. One image, taken on Aug. 5, shows a few bright spots in infrared photos taken of the planet. The bright bits show storms in the planet's atmosphere. A second photo of Uranus, taken on Aug. 6, reveals more bright spots. One very large storm seen by the telescope has particularly interested researchers analyzing the views of Uranus. The storm reaches into the high altitudes of the planet's atmosphere, according to Keck representatives.
"We are always anxious to see that first image of the night of any planet or satellite, as we never know what it might have in store for us," Imke de Pater, professor at UC Berkeley and team leader, said in a statement. "This extremely bright feature we saw on UT 6 August 2014 reminds me of a similarly bright storm we saw on Uranus’s southern hemisphere during the years leading up to and at equinox." The new storm is reminiscent of a feature known as the "Berg," which disappeared in 2009, but could even have dated back to NASA's Voyager probe's flyby of the planet in 1986, according to Keck. The Berg — so named because the storm looked like an iceberg sloughing off an ice shelf — became very bright in 2004 and started to move toward the planet's equator in 2005.The new storm feature spotted by Keck is brighter than the Berg, according to Keck representatives, and it also looks similar. Scientists think that a vortex deeper in the atmosphere of Uranus might be associated with the bright spot. Researchers will analyze data to measure exactly where it is located within the planet's atmosphere. "Even after years of observing, a new picture of Uranus from Keck Observatory can stop me in my tracks and make me say Wow!" Heidi Hammel, a member of the observing team, said in the same statement. Storms rage all across the solar system. At one point, Jupiter's Great Red Spot was once the size of three Earths, and a massive storm rages in Saturn's north pole. Amateur astronomers on Earth can also spot Uranus in the night sky this month. The seventh planet from the sun rises in the late evening and can be seen in the constellation Pisces in the Northern Hemisphere.View Article Here Read More