The discovery of primitive galaxies reveals even greater cosmic mystery

In light of the latest discovery, scientists predict that up to 20 percent of galaxies from the early days of the universe are hiding behind dust.

Adding more depth to the mysteries of space, scientists have seen two galaxies billions of light-years away that have remained hidden by cosmic dust and have predicted that nearly one-fifth of early galaxies remain unseen. Dust-obscured galaxies have been the subject of astronomical fascination for some time, primarily because scientists can not predict what wonders they may conceal. To the ignorant, cosmic dust is predominantly small particles of solid material floating in space between stars.

This dust tends to block the path of light from bright bodies such as stars, supernova explosions and even entire galaxies from Earth and space-based telescopes. But with the development of infrared imaging technology, scientists can finally study the cosmic dust particles that are moved around by magnetic, electric and gravitational forces. A little over a month ago, a team from the University of Arizona discovered a protocol of galaxies in the infrared region and called it a “massive shipyard of galaxies.”

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Now astronomers from the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute claim to have discovered two galaxies that have so far remained invisible due to the cosmic dust that surrounds them. The sighting was done using ALMA radio telescopes (Atacama Large Millimeter Array). This also helped a team from the University of Massachusetts Amherst discover six massive ancient galaxies that were born shortly after the Big Bang and have since run out of fuel to enter a quiet phase. The two previously undiscovered galaxies are 29 billion light-years away and have been named REBELS-12-2 and REBELS-29-2. The research, published in Nature, notes that these two are among “the most UV-luminous galaxies” in that redshift area. The team behind the discovery claims that light emitted by these two galaxies has traveled a distance of 13 billion years, but due to the continuous expansion of the universe, they are now 29 light-years away from Earth.

Clears dust from the mysteries of the universe

Cosmic dust

NASA

Although the discovery is interesting in itself, the conclusions are much more significant. Research has theorized that the early universe was home to more galaxies than previously thought, but most of these have so far gone undiscovered because they have remained hidden behind clouds of cosmic dust. Based on the results, the team speculates that between 10 and 20 percent of these ancient galaxies are hidden behind layers of dust. In a related discovery, researchers recently performed 3D mapping of molecular clouds connecting the constellations of Taurus and Perseus, concluding that this star-forming region is actually a giant gas bubble.

“Our discovery shows that up to one in five of the earliest galaxies may have been missing from our map of the sky.” notes Associate Professor Pascal Oesch from the Cosmic Dawn Center at the Niels Bohr Institute. Thanks to advanced observational hardware, such as the ALMA radio telescope array, scientists now hope to find more such galaxies that have avoided detection using optical instruments such as Hubble space telescope. The team puts its hopes in the James Webb Telescope to identify more galaxies obscured by cosmic dust and observe some of the earliest artifacts in the universe.

Next: Astronomers ‘stumped’ over images of bizarre double galaxy

Sources: Nature, University of Copenhagen

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