NASA: Hubble telescope discovers 6 massive dead galaxies; Check details

Hubble telescope has discovered the six massive galaxies that ran out of cold hydrogen gas while most of the other galaxies were producing new stars at a rapid pace.

Created On: Sep 23, 2021 16:26 IST
Dead massive galaxies
Dead massive galaxies

The Hubble telescope of the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) has discovered massive dead galaxies that had run out of cold hydrogen gas which is needed to make stars.

In a tweet, the NASA Hubble while sharing the pictures of galaxies wrote, “Hubble found galaxies running on empty! Astronomers discovered six massive, dead galaxies that had run out of the cold hydrogen gas needed to make stars.”

Earlier in 2021, the scientists who were studying the early galaxies were stunned when they discovered the six massive galaxies that seem to have died during the most active period of star birth in the universe. Hubble telescope spied on the six galaxies and noted that they ran out of cold hydrogen gas while most of the other galaxies were producing new stars at a rapid pace.

Discovery of dead galaxies

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), when the universe was about 3 billion years old which is just 20% of its current age, it experienced the most prolific period of star birth in its history.

But when the Hubble Space Telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Northern Chile looked towards the cosmic objects in this period, they found something very weird and odd: six early, massive, empty galaxies. These galaxies, without fuel for star formation, were running on empty.

What happened to all the cold hydrogen gas in these galaxies?

Without the cold hydrogen gas which is essential to fuel stars and birth the new ones, the galaxies were essentially dead. They were also unable to rejuvenate, even if they have absorbed the gas clouds and the nearby smaller galaxies. However, as per the lead author of the study, why they died is still a mystery.

Kate Whitaker, the lead author of the recent study posited, “Did a supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy turn on and heat up the gas?. If so, the gas could still be there, but now it is hot.

Or the gas could have been expelled and now it is being prevented from accreting back into the galaxy. Or whether the galaxy just used it all up and the supply is now cut off?

The possibilities are endless.

How NASA’s Hubble discovered dead galaxies?

NASA’s Hubble telescope was used by astronomers to pinpoint the galaxies. Then with the use of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, the researchers were able to detect whether or not the galaxies were containing the cold dust that signals the existence of cold hydrogen gas.

However, since the galaxies are so old and so far away, the dead galaxies would not have been spotted with the technique known as ‘gravitational lensing'. NASA team used super-massive galaxy clusters that were closer to Earth as natural telescopes.

Kate Whitaker explained that by using strong gravitational lensing as a natural telescope, researchers can find the distant, most massive as well as first galaxies to shut down their star formation. 

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