ALMA Rewrites History Of Universe’s Stellar Baby Boom


Credit: ALMA (ESO/NRAO/NAOJ), Y. Hezaveh et al.

Credit: ALMA (ESO/NRAO/NAOJ), Y. Hezaveh et al.

Observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) show that the most vigorous bursts of star birth in the cosmos took place much earlier than previously thought. The results are published in a set of papers to appear in the journal Nature on 14 March 2013, and in the Astrophysical Journal. The research is the most recent example of the discoveries coming from the new international ALMA observatory, which celebrates its inauguration today.

The most intense bursts of star birth are thought to have occurred in the early Universe, in massive, bright galaxies. These starburst galaxies convert vast reservoirs of cosmic gas and dust into new stars at a furious pace — many hundreds of times faster than in stately spiral galaxies like our own galaxy, the Milky Way. By looking far into space, at galaxies so distant that their light has taken many billions of years to reach us, astronomers can observe this busy period in the Universe’s youth.

“The more distant the galaxy, the further back in time one is looking, so by measuring their distances we can piece together a timeline of how vigorously the Universe was making new stars at different stages of its 13.7 billion year history,” said Joaquin Vieira (California Institute of Technology, USA), who led the team and is lead author of the paper in the journal Nature.

The international team of researchers first discovered these distant and enigmatic starburst galaxies with the US National Science Foundation’s 10-metre South Pole Telescope (SPT) and then used ALMA to zoom in on them to explore the stellar baby boom in the young Universe. They were surprised to find that many of these distant dusty star-forming galaxies are even further away than expected. This means that, on average, their bursts of star birth took place 12 billion years ago, when the Universe was just under 2 billion years old — a full billion years earlier than previously thought.

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1313/
Also: http://www.uanews.org/story/alma-exposes-hidden-star-factories-in-the-early-universe
Also: http://www3.mpifr-bonn.mpg.de/public/pr/pr-alma-mar2013-en.html

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