Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The Cosmic Dance Of Distant Galaxies

Date:
March 18, 2006
Source:
European Southern Observatory
Summary:
Studying several tens of distant galaxies, an international team of astronomers found that galaxies had the same amount of dark matter relative to stars 6 billion years ago as they have now. If confirmed, this suggests a much closer interplay between dark and normal matter than previously believed.

The new results obtained with GIRAFFE on the VLT seem to show that collisions and merging are important in the formation and evolution of galaxies. Here, such a collision is shown in this artist's impression.
Credit: Image courtesy of European Southern Observatory (ESO)

Studying several tens of distant galaxies, an international team of astronomers found that galaxies had the same amount of dark matter relative to stars 6 billion years ago as they have now. If confirmed, this suggests a much closer interplay between dark and normal matter than previously believed. The scientists also found that as many as 4 out of 10 galaxies are out of balance. These results shed a new light on how galaxies form and evolve since the Universe was only half its current age.

"This may imply that collisions and merging are important in the formation and evolution of galaxies", said Franηois Hammer, Paris Observatory, France, and one of the leaders of the team.

The scientists were interested in finding out how galaxies that are far away - thus seen as they were when the Universe was younger - evolved into the ones nearby. In particular, they wanted to study the importance of dark matter in galaxies.

"Dark matter, which composes about 25% of the Universe, is a simple word to describe something we really don't understand," said Hector Flores, co-leader. "From looking at how galaxy rotates, we know that dark matter must be present, as otherwise these gigantic structures would just dissolve."

In nearby galaxies, and in our own Milky Way for that matter, astronomers have found that there exist a relation between the amount of dark matter and ordinary stars: for every kilogram of material within a star there is roughly 30 kilograms of dark matter. But does this relation between dark and ordinary matter still hold in the Universe's past?

This required measuring the velocity in different parts of distant galaxies, a rather tricky experiment: previous measurements were indeed unable to probe these galaxies in sufficient details, since they had to select a single slit, i.e. a single direction, across the galaxy.

Things changed with the availability of the multi-object GIRAFFE spectrograph, now installed on the 8.2-m Kueyen Unit Telescope of ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory (Chile).

In one mode, known as "3-D spectroscopy" or "integral field", this instrument can obtain simultaneous spectra of smaller areas of extended objects like galaxies or nebulae. For this, 15 deployable fibre bundles, the so-called Integral Field Units (IFUs) , cf. ESO PR 01/02 , are used to make meticulous measurements of distant galaxies. Each IFU is a microscopic, state-of-the-art two-dimensional lens array with an aperture of 3 x 2 arcsec2 on the sky. It is like an insect's eye, with twenty micro-lenses coupled with optical fibres leading the light recorded at each point in the field to the entry slit of the spectrograph.

"GIRAFFE on ESO's VLT is the only instrument in the world that is able to analyze simultaneously the light coming from 15 galaxies covering a field of view almost as large as the full moon," said Mathieu Puech, lead author of one the papers presenting the results. "Every galaxy observed in this mode is split into continuous smaller areas where spectra are obtained at the same time."

The astronomers used GIRAFFE to measure the velocity fields of several tens of distant galaxies, leading to the surprising discovery that as much as 40% of distant galaxies were "out of balance" - their internal motions were very disturbed - a possible sign that they are still showing the aftermath of collisions between galaxies.

When they limited themselves to only those galaxies that have apparently reached their equilibrium, the scientists found that the relation between the dark matter and the stellar content did not appear to have evolved during the last 6 billions years.

Thanks to its exquisite spectral resolution, GIRAFFE also allows for the first time to study the distribution of gas as a function of its density in such distant galaxies. The most spectacular results reveal a possible outflow of gas and energy driven by the intense star-formation within the galaxy and a giant region of very hot gas (HII region) in a galaxy in equilibrium that produces many stars.

"Such a technique can be expanded to obtain maps of many physical and chemical characteristics of distant galaxies, enabling us to study in detail how they assembled their mass during their entire life," said Franηois Hammer. "In many respects, GIRAFFE and its multi-integral field mode gives us a first flavour of what will be achieved with future extremely large telescopes."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Southern Observatory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Southern Observatory. "The Cosmic Dance Of Distant Galaxies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 March 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060318232305.htm>.
European Southern Observatory. (2006, March 18). The Cosmic Dance Of Distant Galaxies. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060318232305.htm
European Southern Observatory. "The Cosmic Dance Of Distant Galaxies." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060318232305.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) — NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX on Tuesday to build America's next spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017, opening the way to a new chapter in human spaceflight. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins