The brightest galaxy ever observed in the Universe appears to be tearing itself into pieces, according to a research published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The galaxy, called W2246-0526, is located at about twelve billion light-years from Earth. It was discovered by a team of researchers from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) who used advanced technology in the Atacama Desert of Chile. The finding is important because it can teach us more about the fate of galaxies in general.
Roberto Assef, co-author of the study and an astronomer with the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile, said that the discovery sheds light on how galaxies evolve.
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) researchers were actually following on from work done by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft had previously observed the W2246-0526 galaxy. It found that the infrared light coming from the galaxy was as bright as three hundred trillion suns.
Dr. Assef said that each galaxy has large amounts of interstellar gas from which stars are born. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array study looked at the motion of W2246-0526’s interstellar medium (ISM) – matter (like dust and gas) that exists between star systems in a galaxy.
Through the observations, the researchers also found that W2246-0526 has a supermassive black hole at its core. An intense disk of gas – which spins around the supermassive black hole – powers the brightness of the galaxy. Dust first absorbs the light coming from the disk, and then throws it into the universe on the infrared wavelengths.
According to Dr. Assef, the infrared energy emitted by the dust produces turbulence in the interstellar medium, and has a strong impact on the whole galaxy.
Charles Blue, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), said that the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array – an astronomical interferometer of radio telescopes that has sixty-six antennae – is one of the most powerful telescopes ever constructed.
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a Federally Funded Research and Development Center of the United States National Science Foundation, is practically the North American arm of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array.
Dr. Manuel Aravena, co-author of the study and an assistant professor at Universidad Diego Portales, said that the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array is able to spot objects in high definition that cannot necessarily be seen in optical light.
Image Source: jpl. nasa. gov
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