Nav: Home

Carbon cocoons surround growing galaxies

December 16, 2019

Researchers have discovered gigantic clouds of gaseous carbon spanning more than a radius of 30,000 light-years around young galaxies using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). This is the first confirmation that carbon atoms produced inside of stars in the early Universe have spread beyond galaxies. No theoretical studies have predicted such huge carbon cocoons around growing galaxies, which raises questions about our current understanding of cosmic evolution.

"We examined the ALMA Science Archive thoroughly and collected all the data that contain radio signals from carbon ions in galaxies in the early Universe, only one billion years after the Big Bang," says Seiji Fujimoto, the lead author of the research paper who is an astronomer at the University of Copenhagen, and a former Ph.D. student at the University of Tokyo. "By combining all the data, we achieved unprecedented sensitivity. To obtain a dataset of the same quality with one observation would take 20 times longer than typical ALMA observations, which is almost impossible to achieve."

Heavy elements such as carbon and oxygen did not exist in the Universe at the time of the Big Bang. They were formed later by nuclear fusion in stars. However, it is not yet understood how these elements spread throughout the Universe. Astronomers have found heavy elements inside baby galaxies but not beyond those galaxies, due to the limited sensitivity of their telescopes. This research team summed the faint signals stored in the data archive and pushed the limits.

"The gaseous carbon clouds are almost five times larger than the distribution of stars in the galaxies, as observed with the Hubble Space Telescope," explains Masami Ouchi, a professor at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and the University of Tokyo. "We spotted diffuse but huge clouds floating in the coal-black Universe."

Then, how were the carbon cocoons formed? "Supernova explosions at the final stage of stellar life expel heavy elements formed in the stars," says Professor Rob Ivison, the Director for Science at the European Southern Observatory. "Energetic jets and radiation from supermassive black holes in the centers of the galaxies could also help transport carbon outside of the galaxies and finally to throughout the Universe. We are witnessing this ongoing diffusion process, the earliest environmental pollution in the Universe."

The research team notes that at present theoretical models are unable to explain such large carbon clouds around young galaxies, probably indicating that some new physical process must be incorporated into cosmological simulations. "Young galaxies seem to eject an amount of carbon-rich gas far exceeding our expectation," says Andrea Ferrara, a professor at Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa.

The team is now using ALMA and other telescopes around the world to further explore the implications of the discovery for galactic outflows and carbon-rich halos around galaxies.
-end-
The research team members are:

Seiji Fujimoto (The University of Tokyo/National Astronomical Observatory of Japan/Waseda, University, current affiliation is University of Copenhagen), Masami Ouchi (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan/The University of Tokyo) , Andrea Ferrara (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa), Andrea Pallottini (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa), Rob. J. Ivison (European Southern Observatory), Christopher Behrens (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa), Simona Gallerani (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa), Shohei Arata (Osaka University), Hidenobu Yajima (University of Tsukuba), and Kentaro Nagamine (Osaka University/The University of Tokyo/University of Nevada)

National Institutes of Natural Sciences

Related Big Bang Articles:

Supermassive black holes shortly after the Big Bang: How to seed them
They are billions of times larger than our Sun: how is it possible that supermassive black holes were already present when the Universe was 'just' 800 million years old?
Big data could yield big discoveries in archaeology, Brown scholar says
Parker VanValkenburgh, an assistant professor of anthropology, curated a journal issue that explores the opportunities and challenges big data could bring to the field of archaeology.
APS tip sheet: modeling the matter after big bang expansion
Matter's fragmentation after the big bang.
Giving cryptocurrency users more bang for their buck
A new cryptocurrency-routing scheme co-invented by MIT researchers can boost the efficiency -- and, ultimately, profits -- of certain networks designed to speed up notoriously slow blockchain transactions.
The core of massive dying galaxies already formed 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang
The most distant dying galaxy discovered so far, more massive than our Milky Way -- with more than a trillion stars -- has revealed that the 'cores' of these systems had formed already 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang, about 1 billion years earlier than previous measurements revealed.
The 'cores' of massive galaxies had already formed 1.5 billion years after the big bang
A distant galaxy more massive than our Milky Way -- with more than a trillion stars - has revealed that the 'cores' of massive galaxies in the Universe had formed already 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang, about 1 billion years earlier than previous measurements revealed.
UCF researchers discover mechanisms for the cause of the Big Bang
The origin of the universe started with the Big Bang, but how the supernova explosion ignited has long been a mystery -- until now.
Putting the 'bang' in the Big Bang
Physicists at MIT, Kenyon College, and elsewhere have simulated in detail an intermediary phase of the early universe that may have bridged cosmic inflation with the Big Bang.
Big brains or big guts: Choose one
A global study comparing 2,062 birds finds that, in highly variable environments, birds tend to have either larger or smaller brains relative to their body size.
Dark matter may be older than the big bang, study suggests
Dark matter, which researchers believe make up about 80% of the universe's mass, is one of the most elusive mysteries in modern physics.
More Big Bang News and Big Bang Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.