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Astronomers explore the elements of early galaxies and star formation


This galaxy cluster, which has been nicknamed "El Gordo" for the "big" or "fat" one in Spanish, is a remarkable object. Found in the distant Universe by Chandra and the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, El Gordo appears to be the most massive, the hottest, and gives off the most X-rays of any known cluster at its distance or beyond.


NASA/CXC/Rutgers/J.Hughes et al, Optical: ESO/VLT/Pontificia Universidad. Catolica de Chile/L.Infante & SOAR (MSU/NOAO/UNC/CNPq-Brazil)/Rutgers/F.Menanteau, IR: NASA/JPL/Rutgers/F.Menanteau

Using Europe's ESO Very Large Telescope, astronomers have learned new details about early galaxies.

The study looked at an early galaxy in unprecedented detail, learning new things about its elements and how it forms stars.

One major finding was that in today's galaxies there are far more stars and far less gas.

Stars also formed differently in the early universe.

Astronomers also found that early galaxies were formed from dark matter and gas clouds, making them denser. From there, gas cools down rapidly and gravitational compression heats up the matter.

The process creates a glowing ball of gas that eventually becomes a star.

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"Galaxies are deeply fascinating objects. The seeds of galaxies are quantum fluctuations in the very early universe and thus, understanding of galaxies links the largest scales in the universe with the smallest," said Johan Fynbo, of the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen, in a statement.

To get their findings, researchers looked at a galaxy that is located 11 billion years back in time.

To make the research even more mind-blowing, the astronomers used light from a quasar that sat behind the galaxy, to illuminate the gases and other elements.

Astronomers also found that early stars are far less complex than our sun - containing only about one one-thousandth of the elements. That means that stars become richer in elements after each generation.

The findings were published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.