ESO: Ancient galactic megamergers observed

The latest report from ESO (European Southern Observatory);

Ancient Galaxy Megamergers 

This artist’’s impression of SPT2349-56 shows a group of interacting and merging galaxies in the early Universe. Such mergers have been spotted using the ALMA and APEX telescopes and represent the formation of galaxies clusters, the most massive objects in the modern Universe. Astronomers thought that these events occurred around three billion years after the Big Bang, so they were surprised when the new observations revealed them happening when the Universe was only half that age! [Higher-res images]

The ALMA and APEX telescopes have peered deep into space — back to the time when the Universe was one tenth of its current age — and witnessed the beginnings of gargantuan cosmic pileups: the impending collisions of young, starburst galaxies. Astronomers thought that these events occurred around three billion years after the Big Bang, so they were surprised when the new observations revealed them happening when the Universe was only half that age! These ancient systems of galaxies are thought to be building the most massive structures in the known Universe: galaxy clusters.

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX), two international teams of scientists led by Tim Miller from Dalhousie University in Canada and Yale University in the US and Iván Oteo from the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, have uncovered startlingly dense concentrations of galaxies that are poised to merge, forming the cores of what will eventually become colossal galaxy clusters.

Peering 90% of the way across the observable Universe, the Miller team observed a galaxy protocluster named SPT2349-56. The light from this object began travelling to us when the Universe was about a tenth of its current age.

The individual galaxies in this dense cosmic pileup are starburst galaxies and the concentration of vigorous star formation in such a compact region makes this by far the most active region ever observed in the young Universe. Thousands of stars are born there every year, compared to just one in our own Milky Way.

This montage shows three views of a distant group of interacting and merging galaxies in the early Universe. The left image is a wide view from the South Pole Telescope that reveals just a bright spot. The central view is from Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) that reveals more details. The right picture is from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and reveals that the object is actually a group of 14 merging galaxies in the process of forming a galaxy cluster. [Higher-res images]

The Oteo team discovered a similar megamerger formed by ten dusty star-forming galaxies, nicknamed a “dusty red core” because of its very red colour, by combining observations from ALMA and the APEX.

Iván Oteo explains why these objects are unexpected:

“The lifetime of dusty starbursts is thought to be relatively short, because they consume their gas at an extraordinary rate. At any time, in any corner of the Universe, these galaxies are usually in the minority. So, finding numerous dusty starbursts shining at the same time like this is very puzzling, and something that we still need to understand.”

These forming galaxy clusters were first spotted as faint smudges of light, using the South Pole Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory. Subsequent ALMA and APEX observations showed that they had unusual structure and confirmed that their light originated much earlier than expected — only 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang.

The new high-resolution ALMA observations finally revealed that the two faint glows are not single objects, but are actually composed of fourteen and ten individual massive galaxies respectively, each within a radius comparable to the distance between the Milky Way and the neighbouring Magellanic Clouds.

These discoveries by ALMA are only the tip of the iceberg. Additional observations with the APEX telescope show that the real number of star-forming galaxies is likely even three times higher. Ongoing observations with the MUSE instrument on ESO’s VLT are also identifying additional galaxies,

comments Carlos De Breuck, ESO astronomer.

Current theoretical and computer models suggest that protoclusters as massive as these should have taken much longer to evolve. By using data from ALMA, with its superior resolution and sensitivity, as input to sophisticated computer simulations, the researchers are able to study cluster formation less than 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang.

How this assembly of galaxies got so big so fast is a mystery. It wasn’t built up gradually over billions of years, as astronomers might expect. This discovery provides a great opportunity to study how massive galaxies came together to build enormous galaxy clusters,” 

says Tim Miller, a PhD candidate at Yale University and lead author of one of the papers.


Carnival of Space #558 – Universe Today

Universe Today hosts the latest Carnival of Space.

“Map projection of Charon, the largest of Pluto’s five moons, annotated with its first set of official feature names. With a diameter of about 1215 km, the France-sized moon is one of largest known objects in the Kuiper Belt, the region of icy, rocky bodies beyond Neptune. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute”

Participate in “Train Like a Martian Challenge” sponsored by Mars Generation

The Mars Generation is sponsoring a competition and activities event for students and educators called Train Like A Martian Challenge:

Join Us For Our 3rd Annual #TrainLikeAMartian Challenge
May 14-18, 2018

Sign up now and join us for our third annual #TrainLikeAMartian event! We expect that the event will be a blast! Anyone can join including individuals, students, teachersschools, sports teams, community organizations and anyone who wants to get involved. For educator resources to plan for the event please click here.

What is the #TrainLikeAMartian challenge? The #TrainLikeAMartian Challenge is a week of fun activities that brings awareness to the importance of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) education, space exploration, and physical fitness to students and adults around the world! This is a chance to have fun, spread an important message, and have a opportunity to win some cool space and STEM prizes May 14-18, 2018!

Daily prizes include: TMG magnets, TMG logo patches, TMG stickers, Astronaut Abby patches, TMG coloring books and more! We will hold multiple random drawings of all entries each day of the event May 14-May 18, 2018.

Grand prizes include: 

Arckit A180 The Architectural Model Design Tool (4 lucky winners) $170.00 Value: The Arckit 180 provides everything you need to design and build your own impressive model structures up to 180 sq.m (1,937 sq.ft) to scale, including adhesive sheets to add realistic building finishes. There are no set instructions – just follow your imagination!

Lottie Doll Supreme Play Package (1 lucky winner): 1 Star Gazer doll,1 Muddy Puddles doll, and 1 Wildlife Photography doll, 1 Doll Treehouse, and 1 Astro Adventure Suit.

1 Lottie Doll of Winner’s Choice plus 1 Astro Adventure Suit (3 lucky winners) 

Grand prize drawing will be after the event. Winners will be chosen by random drawing of all entries throughout the event.

Constellation Community Challenge: Our event sponsors:  United Launch Services (ULA)Lottie DollsArckitIndulge SweetsAerojet Rocketdyne and have joined forces to offer a $10,000 matching challenge grant to our community. Please help us earn this $10,000 challenge grant by becoming part of our constellation community by donating today! Every donation up to $10,000 is matched 100%! Donate now here!

All donations through May 18, 2018 will be doubled up to $10,000! Click here for details.

This means we have the potential to raise $20,000 for The Mars Generation programs including sending students who lack financial resources to Space Camp! Donating is not required to participate in the challenge, but for every $25 donated you will receive on entry into the daily and grand prize drawings. Click here to donate.

Want to earn special rewards? Become a fundraiser for The Mars Generation Train Like A Martian challenge for a chance to earn exclusive rewards. Scroll to the bottom fo the page for all fundraising rewards. Fundraising is not required to participate in the challenge.


Continue to the Train Like A Martian Challenge website for more details about the competition including how to enter…

See also Train Like A Martian Challenge For Classrooms and Schools.

The Space Show this week – April.23.2018

The guests and topics of discussion on The Space Show this week:

1. Monday, April 23, 2018; 2-3:30 pm PDT (4-5:30 pm CDT, 5-6:30 pm EDT): We welcome back Dr. James Schwartz to continue discussing his body of work regarding human spaceflight exploration and more.

2. Tuesday, April 24, 2018: 7-8:30 pm PDT; 9-10:30 pm CDT; 10-11:30 pm EDT: We welcome Tom Risen, Aerospace America journalist for a discussion on many important news topics, the recently concluded Space Symposium, and the NASA Administrator hearing which he attended.

3. Wednesday, April 25, 2018: Hotel Mars. See Upcoming Show Menu and the website newsletter for details. Hotel Mars is pre-recorded by John Batchelor. It is archived on The Space Show site after John posts it on his website.

4. Friday, April 27, 2018; 9:30 am -11 am PDT, (12:30 -2 pm EDT; 11:30 AM-1 pm CDT): This will be an Orbital ATK program about the Air Force EELV program and their new rocket, OmegaA Rocket Program.

5. Sunday, April 29, 2018: 12-1:30 pm PDT; 2-3:30 pm CDT; 3-4:30 pm EDT. Welcome Dr. Brian Keating, UCSD astrophysicist and author of the new book Losing The Nobel Prize: A Story Of Cosmology, Ambition, And The Perils Of Science’s Highest Honor.

See also:

* The Space Show on Vimeo – webinar videos
* The Space Show’s Blog – summaries of interviews.
* The Space Show Classroom Blog – tutorial programs

The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.

The Space Show - David Livingston
David Livingston

A multi-colored Blue Horsehead Nebula

NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for April 23rd is more painterly than usual:

“The Blue Horsehead Nebula in Infrared”. Image Credit: WISE, IRSA, NASA; Processing & Copyright : Francesco Antonucci

Note that processing of an infrared image allows for considerable freedom in how the final rendering appears. In this case, it was rendered with great artistry by Mr. Antonucci.

From the caption:

The Blue Horsehead Nebula looks quite different in infrared light. In visible light, the reflecting dust of the nebula appears blue and shaped like a horse’s head. In infrared light, however, a complex labyrinth of filaments, caverns, and cocoons of glowing dust and gas emerges, making it hard to even identify the equine icon. The featured image of the nebula was created in three infrared colors (R=22, G=12, B=4.6 microns) from data taken by NASA’s orbiting Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft. The nebula is cataloged as IC 4592 and spans about 40 light years, lying about 400 light years away toward the constellation Scorpius along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. IC 4592 is fainter but covers an angularly greater region than the better known Horsehead Nebula of Orion. The star that predominantly illuminates and heats the dust is Nu Scorpii, visible as the yellow star left of center.