Scientists detect stellar cradles and graves in the farthest galaxy ever

ALMA observations of the nebulae in MACS0416_Y1. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Y. Tamura et al.

A group of astronomers has made some exciting observations of a galaxy, MACS0416_Y1, that’s incredibly far away – 13.2 billion light-years to be exact!

This group was led by Yoichi Tamura from Nagoya University.

Their study focused on how stars are born and how they end their lives in this distant galaxy.

Before we dive into their discovery, let’s understand a bit about the galaxy they observed.

When we say that this galaxy is 13.2 billion light-years away, it means the light we’re seeing from it right now actually left the galaxy 13.2 billion years ago.

So, in a way, we’re looking into the past, back when the universe was much younger.

In their previous study, the team detected some radio waves from MACS0416_Y1. These waves were given off by two things: dust and oxygen.

Both of these are found in nebulae, which are massive clouds of dust and gas in space where stars are born and die. But they needed a clearer picture to understand what was happening in the galaxy.

So, they used a powerful telescope named ALMA and observed the galaxy for 28 hours. What they found was pretty cool.

They saw regions where dust and oxygen are all tangled up but avoid each other. This suggests that new stars born in the nebulae are interacting with the gas around them.

They also found a gigantic hole, about 1,000 light-years across, in the area where dust was most prevalent. This could be a “superbubble”, a giant hollow space created when a bunch of big, new stars explode in a series of supernovae.

One of the astronomers, Takuya Hashimoto from the University of Tsukuba, compared their observations to spotting the weak light from two fireflies that are 3 centimeters apart at the top of Mount Fuji, while viewing from Tokyo. Now that’s precision!

By examining the gas’s movement in these nebulae, the team suggested that many stars might form together in big clusters.

Tamura and his team hope that future observations with more advanced telescopes, like the James Webb Space Telescope and the upcoming Extremely Large Telescopes, will give them more information about these star clusters.

Their findings were published in the Astrophysical Journal, shedding new light on our understanding of star formation and death in the early universe.

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