Science is forever changing. The word science comes from the Latin scire, meaning ‘to know’, awareness. In different disciplines within the field of science, we are constantly discovering and learning new things. From the microorganisms to the vast expanses of deep space, we continue to see further in either direction.
Now, astronomers have shared with us a newly discovered array of previously hidden galaxies. A galaxy is a system of stars, gas, dust and dark matter bound together by the force of gravity. Our planet, Earth, is located in the Milky Way Galaxy.
New instruments implementing newer breakthrough technologies were instrumental in helping discover dozens of mysterious massive galaxies billions of lightyears away. These galaxies appear to be producing a large number of stars.
This amazing new discovery could assist scientists in solving some of the fundamental age-old questions about the origins of the universe as well as helping to further understand supermassive black holes and even dark matter.
Cosmologists have long thought these galaxies to exist, and now this discovery may cause researchers to return to the drawing board in understanding exactly how the universe works.
Although the launching of the Hubble telescope in 1990 gave astronomers an extraordinary glance at the universe, it did not allow them to see the distance and details they can now.
This new research enables scientists to string together imagery collected by multiple observatories around the world in order to see more deeply and vivid into space than what was previously possible, which allowed them to see the new huge galaxies.
Dr. Tao Wang, a lead researcher from the University of Tokyo, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, said that this is the first time this size population of massive galaxies could be confirmed as old as the first two billion years of the 13.7 billion year life of the known universe.
Dr. Wang added that this discovery seems to contradict previous scientific models for that period of the evolution in the cosmos and it will help fill in some missing details. He also noted that if you were able to perceive these galaxies themselves they would appear to fill the night sky with a more majestic spectacle of stars above us.
While there are the largest galaxies of their kind to be spotted, they are quite difficult to see from our planet because they are extremely faint. It takes so long for their light to travel towards us that it becomes stretched out and the intensity is reduced.
Kotaro Koh, one of the researchers who worked on the study published by Nature, said, “The light from these galaxies is very faint with long wavelengths invisible to our eyes and undetectable by Hubble.”
That is why Koh says they turned to Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a telescope he is familiar with which he says he knew would prove fruitful.
By measuring how the light from the galaxies stretches they can determine how far it has traveled and how old the mysterious galaxies are.
Dr. Wang mentioned that convincing their peers of the supposed age of these galaxies was difficult. They had initial data collected using the Psitzer’s Space Telescope’s infrared data. ALMA provided much sharper details at submillimeter wavelengths which enabled them to see through dust present in the early universe.
They used additional data collected from the aptly named Very Large Telescope in Chile to prove they were in fact seeing ancient massive galaxies in a region of space where none had been detected before.
Researchers are hoping to use this new data to gain a better understanding of the supermassive black holes at their center, which are believed to affect their formation and the expansion of dark matter through the universe.
Cosmologists and astronomers are likely going to have to adapt and change their theories about how the universe exists and functions.