Nav: Home

Astronomers find a galaxy unchanged since the early universe

June 07, 2018

There is a calculation suggesting that only one in a thousand massive galaxies is a relic of the early universe, conserving intact the properties it had when it was formed thousands of millions of years ago. For that reason when the researchers at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and the University of La Laguna (ULL), Michael Beasley and Ignacio Trujillo located this rarity they wrote a proposal for time on the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the globular clusters surrounding it, and so confirm what had been suggested by the observations they had made with ground-based telescopes.

Globular clusters are groups of stars which orbit round the outskirts of galaxies and they were formed with the galaxies at their birth. There are two types of populations of globular clusters: the red ones, which are born in massive galaxies, which are found nearer to their centres and have higher content of heavy elements than of Helium, and the blue ones, which have a lower fraction of metals and which are found around massive galaxies as a consequence of their absorbing smaller galaxies.

Analyzing these clusters helps provide information about the history of galaxies. The results of the research published today in Nature showed that the galaxy NGC 1277 has only the red globular cluster which formed along with it during the formation period. Since then it has remained unchanged. "Globular cluster systems are very sensitive to the history of galaxy formation" explains Michael Beasley, the first author of the article who also affirms that "this is the first time a galaxy so massive has been observed with so few blue globular clusters".

The galaxy NGC 1277 is composed of a million million stars and its name comes from its entry in the historic New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Star Clusters. It is in the central zone of the Perseus Cluster, the biggest concentration of galaxies close to the Milky Way, and its relative proximity, 70 Mpc (225 million light years) makes it the ideal object for analyzing the properties of a galaxy which has remained essentially unchanged since the early days of the universe. "The galaxy NGC 1277 gives us a unique opportunity to study a "primitive" galaxy in the "local" universe" adds Ignacio Trujillo, another of the authors of the article.

When this galaxy was born it gave birth to 1,000 stars per year, whilst for comparison the Milky Way is currently forming only one star per year.

The reason why these researchers think that this massive galaxy has kept its original form and composition unchanged during all this time is because it formed as a satellite to the central galaxy of the Perseus cluster, which absorbed any material that could have fallen onto NGC 1277 and caused it to evolve differently. It orbits the central galaxy now, at a velocity of 1,000 kilometres per second.

The authors are planning to ask for more time with the Hubble Space Telescope and with its successor the James Webb Space Telescope, to observe the globular clusters of other relic galaxies.
-end-


Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC)

Related Hubble Space Telescope Articles:

New way to weigh a white dwarf: Use Hubble Space Telescope
For the first time, astronomers have used a novel method to determine the mass of a type of star known as a 'white dwarf' -- the shrunken corpse of a dead star that used to be like our sun.
NASA's James Webb space telescope completes acoustic and vibration tests
At NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland the James Webb Space Telescope team completed the acoustic and vibration portions of environmental testing on the telescope.
Probing seven worlds with NASA's James Webb Space Telescope
With the discovery of seven earth-sized planets around the TRAPPIST-1 star 40 light years away, astronomers are looking to the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to help us find out if any of these planets could possibly support life.
NASA restarts rigorous vibration testing on the James Webb Space Telescope
Testing on the James Webb Space Telescope successfully resumed last week at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md.
Robot would assemble modular telescope -- in space
A new concept in space telescope design uses a modular structure and an assembly robot to build an extremely large telescope in space, performing tasks in which astronaut fatigue would be a problem.
Science instruments of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope successfully installed
With surgical precision, two dozen engineers and technicians successfully installed the package of science instruments of the James Webb Space Telescope into the telescope structure.
James Webb Space Telescope's golden mirror unveiled
NASA engineers recently unveiled the giant golden mirror of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope as part of the integration and testing of the infrared telescope.
Earth-space telescope system produces hot surprise
Combining an orbiting radio telescope with telescopes on Earth made a system capable of the highest resolution of any observation ever made in astronomy.
NASA marks major milestones for the James Webb Space Telescope
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope just got a little closer to launch with the completion of cryogenic testing on its science cameras and spectrographs and the installation of the final flight mirrors.
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope secondary mirror installed
The sole secondary mirror that will fly aboard NASA's James Webb Space Telescope was installed onto the telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, on March 3, 2016.

Related Hubble Space Telescope Reading:

Hubble's Universe: Greatest Discoveries and Latest Images
by Terence Dickinson (Author)

NASA Hubble Space Telescope - 1990 onwards (including all upgrades): An insight into the history, development, collaboration, construction and role of ... space telescope (Owners' Workshop Manual)
by David Baker (Author)

The Hubble Cosmos: 25 Years of New Vistas in Space
by David H. Devorkin (Author), Robert W. Smith (Author), Robert P. Kirshner (Foreword)

The Hubble Space Telescope: From Concept to Success (Springer Praxis Books)
by David J. J. Shayler (Author), David M. Harland (Contributor)

Expanding Universe: Photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope
by Owen Edwards (Contributor), Zoltan Levay (Contributor)

Hubble Space Calendar - Hubble Space Telescope Calendar - Calendars 2018 - 2019 Wall Calendars - Spaced Out 16 Month Wall Calendar by Avonside
by MegaCalendars (Author)

Hubble: Imaging Space and Time
by David H. Devorkin (Author), Robert Smith (Author)

Space: Views from the Hubble Telescope 2019 Wall Calendar
by Pomegranate Communications Inc. (Author), Scientific American (Illustrator)

Hubble Telescope, The (Blastoff! Readers: Exploring Space) (Exploring Space: Blastoff! Readers, Level 3)
by Derek Zobel (Author)

Space, Stars, and the Beginning of Time: What the Hubble Telescope Saw
by Elaine Scott (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Approaching With Kindness
We often forget to say the words "thank you." But can those two words change how you — and those around you — look at the world? This hour, TED speakers on the power of gratitude and appreciation. Guests include author AJ Jacobs, author and former baseball player Mike Robbins, Dr. Laura Trice, Professor of Management Christine Porath, and former Danish politician Özlem Cekic.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#509 Anisogamy: The Beginning of Male and Female
This week we discuss how the sperm and egg came to be, and how a difference of reproductive interest has led to sexual conflict in bed bugs. We'll be speaking with Dr. Geoff Parker, an evolutionary biologist credited with developing a theory to explain the evolution of two sexes, about anisogamy, sexual reproduction through the fusion of two different gametes: the egg and the sperm. Then we'll speak with Dr. Roberto Pereira, research scientist in urban entomology at the University of Florida, about traumatic insemination in bed bugs.