Scientists have accidentally discovered what they describe as “the footprints a monstrous galaxy” in the early universe. No evidence of any such galaxy had ever been found before. Hence, the scientists have equated these to the mythical Yeti: “Like a cosmic Yeti, the scientific community generally regarded these galaxies as folklore, given the lack of evidence of their existence, but astronomers in the United States and Australia managed to snap a picture of the beast for the first time,” the University of Arizona said in a statement. The discovery is reported in The Astrophysical Journal.
Recent studies found that some of the biggest galaxies in the young universe matured extremely quickly, the university said. This is something that is not yet understood theoretically.
Also puzzling is that these mature galaxies appear to come out of nowhere: astronomers never seem to catch them while they are forming. Now, the new finding could provide insights into the universe’s infancy. The research team estimates that light from this galaxy has taken 12.5 billion years to reach the Earth.
Lead author Christina Williams discovered a faint light blob during her observations using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA).
“When I saw this galaxy was invisible at any other wavelength, I got really excited because it meant that it was probably really far away and hidden by clouds of dust,” she said in the university statement.
Researchers believe that the emission due to which they were able to “accidentally” observe the galaxy came from star-forming activity inside the galaxy. But for the warm glow radiated during this star-forming activity, the “cosmic Yeti” might have been concealed by dust clouds.
The galaxy had as many stars as the Milky Way and was forming new stars at a rate that was over 100 times faster than in the Milky Way.
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