Scientists discover earliest bursts of star formation during beginning of universe
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Distant, dust-filled galaxies were bursting with newborn stars much earlier in cosmic history than previously thought, a new study suggests.
So-called 'star-burst galaxies' produce stars equivalent of a thousand new suns per year.
Now, astronomers have found star-bursts that were churning out stars when the universe was just a billion years old.
Joaquin Vieira, a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology and leader of the study said that these aren't normal galaxies.
"These galaxies reveal star formation at an extraordinary rate, when the universe was very young. I don't think anyone expected us to find galaxies like this so early in the history of the universe," Vieira said.
An international team of astronomers found dozens of these galaxies with the National Science Foundation- (NSF) funded South Pole Telescope (SPT).
SPT is a 10-meter dish in Antarctica that surveys the sky in millimeter-wavelength light, whose waves fall between radio waves and infrared on the electromagnetic spectrum.
The team then took a more detailed look using the new Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile's Atacama Desert, which is funded in part by NSF.
ALMA is an international facility and is a partnership between North America, Europe and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile.
"The new observations represent some of ALMA's most significant scientific results yet. We couldn't have done this without the combination of SPT and ALMA. ALMA is so sensitive, it is going to change our view of the universe in many different ways," Vieira said.
The research enables astronomers to study the earliest bursts of star formation and to understand how galaxies formed and evolved.
Shining in the infrared with the energy of a trillion suns, these newly discovered star-burst galaxies represent what the most massive galaxies in our cosmic neighborhood looked like in their star-making youth.
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