ALMA and the birth of galaxies are now studied by European researchers who have uncovered new information about one of the most distant histories we know. No, I’m not talking about actual written texts, I’m talking about the earliest recoded information from the birth of the Universe.
The Big Bang is said to have happened about 13.8 billion years ago. At least, that is the common belief shared by astrophysicists today. When it formed, it quickly expanded. Back in its first billion years of age, it was full of hydrogen gas. As it expanded, the bigger and brighter galaxies made up of stars, quasars and powered by supermassive black holes, started to literally “demystify” the universe.
This last period was dubbed the “reionization.” Still, the scientists aimed to find out more about the galaxies that made up the universe before this period. So, to do this, the set up the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to detect these galaxies using specific qualities that these were known to have had. After this, they teamed it with the Very Large Telescope to produce images from as early as 800 million years after the birth of the Universe.
To spot the elusive blobs of light, they set the devices to look for a really faint glow of ionized carbon which appeared from the hydrogen gas clouds and gave them a red-orange look. The scientists were not looking for those formations which were the brightest in the sky back then, but by the very common ones which appeared at around that period and were the ones responsible for the reionization.
This reionization period is the one that set the stage for the very common galaxies that we all are seeing – and experiencing – today. Our own Milky Way included.
The results amazed even the researchers. Robert Maiolino and his team of scientists, along with Andrea Ferrera, the co-author of the study from Pisa, Italy, discovered an image of the galaxy BDF 3299, one of the early galaxies from the formation of the Universe.
The amazing thing about the image (presented above) is that the red glow of ionized carbon is not coming from the center of the star formation (as was previously believed to be the case) but from a side. The researchers speculate that this may be due to the ever-growing number of stars in that galaxy, which eventually pushed the ionization process to the edge.
This is definitely one of the record deep observations which were made with the instrument, but Maiolino says that it is still to reach is full capabilities.
Image source: phys.org