Massive Baby Galaxies Found Embedded in Knot of Dark Matter

 Monstrous galaxies are thought to preferentially always be born at the centers of the web like structures formed by young galaxies. (PHOTO CREDIT: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))
Monstrous galaxies are thought to preferentially always be born at the centers of the web like structures formed by young galaxies. (PHOTO CREDIT: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))

In new observations by the immensely powerful Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) an extremely concentrated knot of monstrous galaxies undergoing energetic star formation at the dawn of our universe has been spied embedded in a knot of dark matter.

The universe is filled with a dark matter web — a vast 3-D structure that the majority of galaxies and clusters of galaxies are threaded along. Although we cannot directly see dark matter (as it does not interact with light), we can see its gravitational influence on space-time and we now know this invisible mass accounts for nearly 85 percent of all matter in the cosmos.

Understanding how this dark matter web influenced the earliest galaxies to form after the Big Bang is critical for us to better appreciate the structure and evolution of the modern universe, so the discovery of a cluster of massive starburst galaxies (i.e. galaxies frantically forming new stars) embedded in a junction of dark matter lanes, some 11.5 billion years ago, could help us understand why none of these monstrous early galaxies exist in the modern universe and how massive elliptical galaxies came to be.

Until now, observing the earliest galaxies has been a problem. Typically, these starburst galaxies that existed in the earliest epochs of our universe are hard to observe as they contain huge quantities of obscuring dust. Radio telescopes find it hard to accurately pin down these galaxies’ locations. But these galaxies are known to generate a high flux of submillimeter emissions, a frequency band ALMA is highly sensitive to.

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SOURCE: Discovery News, Ian O’Neill

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