An artist’s impression of a massive galaxy in the early universe undergoing rapid star formation that lights up surrounding clouds of gas. Thick dust obscures most of the light, causing the galaxy to appear faint and disorganised. Image: James Josephides/Christina Williams/Ivo Labbé
Astronomers have chanced upon evidence for a surprisingly large galaxy lurking 12.5 billion light years away behind vast clouds of dust in the early universe, forming new stars a hundred times faster than the Milky Way. The galaxy may represent a missing link of sorts, helping astronomers figure how how stars came together in the infant universe to form huge galaxies on relatively short timescales.
“Our hidden monster galaxy has precisely the right ingredients to be that missing link, because they are probably a lot more common,” said University of Arizona astronomer Christina Williams, lead author of a study published in the Astrophysical Journal.
The galaxy in question cannot be directly seen, but the heat produced by its stars warms the obscuring dust enough to produce a faint glow, detected by the antennas making up the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile.
“It was very mysterious because the light seemed not to be linked to any known galaxy ...