Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Do Galaxies Follow Darwinian Evolution?

Date:
December 31, 2006
Source:
European Southern Observatory
Summary:
Using VIMOS on ESO's Very Large Telescope, a team of French and Italian astronomers have shown the strong influence the environment exerts on the way galaxies form and evolve. The scientists have for the first time charted remote parts of the Universe, showing that the distribution of galaxies has considerably evolved with time, depending on the galaxies' immediate surroundings. This surprising discovery poses new challenges for theories of the formation and evolution of galaxies.

Spatial, three-dimensional distribution of galaxies in a slice of the Universe as it was 7 billion years ago, based on the VVDS study: brighter areas represent the regions of the Universe with most galaxies. Astonishingly, the galaxy distribution - the 'building blocks' of the large scale structure - takes the shape of a helix at this primordial epoch.
Credit: Image courtesy of European Southern Observatory

Using VIMOS on ESO's Very Large Telescope, a team of French and Italian astronomers have shown the strong influence the environment exerts on the way galaxies form and evolve. The scientists have for the first time charted remote parts of the Universe, showing that the distribution of galaxies has considerably evolved with time, depending on the galaxies' immediate surroundings. This surprising discovery poses new challenges for theories of the formation and evolution of galaxies.

The 'nature versus nurture' debate is a hot topic in human psychology. But astronomers too face similar conundrums, in particular when trying to solve a problem that goes to the very heart of cosmological theories: are the galaxies we see today simply the product of the primordial conditions in which they formed, or did experiences in the past change the path of their evolution?

In a large, three-year long survey carried out with VIMOS [1], the Visible Imager and Multi-Object Spectrograph on ESO's VLT, astronomers studied more than 6,500 galaxies over a wide range of distances to investigate how their properties vary over different timescales, in different environments and for varying galaxy luminosities [2]. They were able to build an atlas of the Universe in three dimensions, going back more than 9 billion years.

This new census reveals a surprising result. The colour-density relation, that describes the relationship between the properties of a galaxy and its environment, was markedly different 7 billion years ago. The astronomers thus found that the galaxies' luminosity, their initial genetic properties, and the environments they reside in have a profound impact on their evolution.

"Our results indicate that environment is a key player in galaxy evolution, but there's no simple answer to the 'nature versus nurture' problem in galaxy evolution," said Olivier Le Fèvre from the Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille, France, who coordinates the VIMOS VLT Deep Survey team that made the discovery. "They suggest that galaxies as we see them today are the product of their inherent genetic information, evolved over time, as well as complex interactions with their environments, such as mergers."

Scientists have known for several decades that galaxies in the Universe's past look different to those in the present-day Universe, local to the Milky Way [3]. Today, galaxies can be roughly classified as red, when few or no new stars are being born, or blue, where star formation is still ongoing. Moreover, a strong correlation exists between a galaxy's colour and the environment it resides in: the more sociable types found in dense clusters are more likely to be red than the more isolated ones.

By looking back at a wide range of galaxies of a variety of ages, the astronomers were aiming to study how this peculiar correlation has evolved over time.

"Using VIMOS, we were able to use the largest sample of galaxies currently available for this type of study, and because of the instrument's ability to study many objects at a time we obtained many more measurements than previously possible," said Angela Iovino, from the Brera Astronomical Observatory, Italy, another member of the team.

The team's discovery of a marked variation in the 'colour-density' relationship, depending on whether a galaxy is found in a cluster or alone, and on its luminosity, has many potential implications. The findings suggest for example that being located in a cluster quenches a galaxy's ability to form stars more quickly compared with those in isolation. Luminous galaxies also run out of star-forming material at an earlier time than fainter ones.

They conclude that the connection between galaxies' colour, luminosity and their local environment is not merely a result of primordial conditions 'imprinted' during their formation - but just as for humans, galaxies' relationship and interactions can have a profound impact on their evolution.

More information

Results from this study are published in volume 458 (1) of Astronomy & Astrophysics, "The VIMOS VLT Deep Survey: The build-up of the colour-density relation", by O. Cucciati et al. The paper is available from the A&A web site.

The Survey team consists of O. Cucciati, A. Iovino, L. Guzzo, S. Temporin (INAF-Observatory of Brera, Italy), C. Marinoni (Centre de Physique Théorique, Marseille, France), O. Ilbert, B. Maranno, A. Bongiorno (University of Bologna, Italy), O. Le Fèvre, A. Pollo, L. Tresse, V. Le Brun, C. Adami, S. Arnouts, A. Mazure, S. de la Torre (CNRS-Université de Provence, France), S. Bardelli, G. Zamorani, A. Cappi, E. Zucca, M. Bolzonella, P. Ciliegi, R. Merighi, L. Pozzetti (INAF-Observatory of Bologna, Italy), P. Franzetti, B. Meneux, M. Scodeggio, D. Bottini, B. Garilli, D. Maccagni, S. Foucaud, D. Vergani (IASF-INAF, Italy), H.J. McCracken, Y. Mellier (Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, France), L. Scaramella, A. Zanichelli, G. Vettolani, M. Bondi, L. Gregorini (IRA-INAF, Italy), J.P. Picat, T. Contini, I. Gavignaud, R. Pello, F. Lamareille, G. Mathez, D. Rizzo (Institut d'Astrophysique de l'Observatoire Midi-Pyrenées), M. Arnaboldi, M. Radovich, G. Busarello, P. Merluzzi, V. Ripepi (Observatory of Capodimonte, Italy), S. Charlot (MPIA, Germany) and S. Paltani (Integral Science Data Centre, Switzerland)

Notes

1. The Visible Multi-Object Spectrograph VIMOS is a multi-mode instrument on Melipal, the third Unit Telescope of the Very Large Telescope array at ESO's Paranal Observatory. In operation since 2003, VIMOS can provide both images and astronomical spectra at visible wavelengths over wide fields of view. In its multi-object mode, it can record up to 1,000 spectra at a time.

2. The VIMOS VLT Deep Survey (VVDS) is a breakthrough spectroscopic survey which will provide, when finished, a complete picture of galaxy and structure formation over a very broad redshift range (0 < z < 5), over sixteen square degrees of the sky in four separate fields.

3. Because of the time taken for light to reach an observer on Earth over the vast distances of the cosmos, astronomers studying distant galaxies are in fact observing conditions in the Universe's past. The region closer to Earth, local to our own Milky Way Galaxy, is thus often referred to as the 'present-day' Universe.


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. "Do Galaxies Follow Darwinian Evolution?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 December 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061207160512.htm>.
European Southern Observatory. (2006, December 31). Do Galaxies Follow Darwinian Evolution?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061207160512.htm
European Southern Observatory. "Do Galaxies Follow Darwinian Evolution?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061207160512.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Risk of Asteroid Hitting Earth Higher Than Thought, Study Shows

Risk of Asteroid Hitting Earth Higher Than Thought, Study Shows

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 23, 2014) — A group of space explorers say the chance of a city-obliterating asteroid striking Earth is higher than scientists previously believed. Deborah Gembara reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) — The B612 Foundation says asteroids strike Earth much more often than previously thought, and are hoping to build an early warning system. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two US Astronauts Step out on Spacewalk for ISS Repairs

Two US Astronauts Step out on Spacewalk for ISS Repairs

AFP (Apr. 23, 2014) — Two US astronauts stepped out on a brief spacewalk Wednesday to install a backup computer at the International Space Station after one failed earlier this month. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) — NASA administrator Charles Bolden, speaking at the 'Human to Mars Summit' in Washington, says that learning more about the Red Planet can help answer the 'fundamental question' of 'life beyond Earth'. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
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