Supersonic gas streams left over from the Big Bang drive massive black hole formation

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

A super-computer simulation by an international team of researchers has shown the formation of a rapidly growing star from supersonic gas streams in the early universe left over from the Big Bang. The star ends its life with catastrophic collapse to leave a black hole with a mass of 34,000 times that of the Sun.

These are projected density distributions of dark matter (background and top panel) and gas (bottom three panels) components when the massive star forms. The stellar cradle is extremely assymmetry as a wide wedge-shaped structure (middle panel) due to the initial supersonic gas motions left over from the Big Bang. The circle in the right panel indicates the gravitationally unstable region with mass of 26,000 solar-masses.

Credit: Shingo Hirano

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An international team of researchers has successfully used a super-computer simulation to recreate the formation of a massive black hole from supersonic gas streams left over from the Big Bang. Their study, published in this week’s Science, shows this black hole could be the source of the birth and development of the largest and oldest super-massive black holes recorded in our Universe.

“This is significant progress. The origin of the monstrous black holes has been a long-standing mystery and now we have a solution to it,” said author and Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU) Principal Investigator Naoki Yoshida.

Recent discoveries of these super-massive black holes located 13 billion light years away, corresponding to when the universe was just five per cent of its present age, pose a serious challenge to the theory of black hole formation and evolution. The physical mechanisms that form black holes and drive their growth are poorly understood.

Theoretical studies have suggested these black holes formed from remnants of the first generation of stars, or from a direct gravitational collapse of a massive primordial gas cloud. However, these theories either have difficulty in forming super-massive black holes fast enough, or require very particular conditions.

Yoshida and JSPS Overseas Research Fellow Shingo Hirano, currently at the University of Texas at Austin, identified a promising physical process through which a massive black hole could form fast enough. The key was incorporating the effect of supersonic gas motions with respect to dark matter. The team’s super-computer simulations showed a massive clump of dark matter had formed when the universe was 100 million years old. Supersonic gas streams generated by the Big Bang were caught by dark matter to form a dense, turbulent gas cloud. Inside, a protostar started to form, and because the surrounding gas provided more than enough material for it to feed on, the star was able to grow extremely big in a short amount of time without releasing a lot of radiation.

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“Once reaching the mass of 34,000 times that of our Sun, the star collapsed by its own gravity, leaving a massive black hole. These massive black holes born in the early universe continued to grow and merge together to become a supermassive black hole,” said Yoshida.

“The number density of massive black holes is derived to be approximately one per a volume of three billion light-years on a side — remarkably close to the observed number density of supermassive black holes,” said Hirano.

The result from this study will be important for future research into the growth of massive black holes. Especially with the increased number of black hole observations in the far universe that are expected to be made when NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is launched next year.

 

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Cosmos by John Hussey

 

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170928142003.htm

 

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NASA’s Webb Telescope to witness galactic infancy

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

Scientists will use NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to study sections of the sky previously observed by NASA’s Great Observatories, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope, to understand the creation of the universe’s first galaxies and stars.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is a snapshot of about 10,000 galaxies in a tiny patch of sky, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI), the HUDF Team

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Scientists will use NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to study sections of the sky previously observed by NASA’s Great Observatories, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope, to understand the creation of the universe’s first galaxies and stars.

After it launches and is fully commissioned, scientists plan to focus Webb telescope on sections of the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF) and the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS). These sections of sky are among Webb’s list of targets chosen by guaranteed time observers, scientists who helped develop the telescope and thus get to be among the first to use it to observe the universe. The group of scientists will primarily use Webb’s mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) to examine a section of HUDF, and Webb’s near infrared camera (NIRCam) to image part of GOODS.

“By mixing [the data from] these instruments, we’ll get information about the current star formation rate, but we’ll also get information about the star formation history,” explained Hans Ulrik Nørgaard-Nielsen, an astronomer at the Danish Space Research Institute in Denmark and the principal investigator for the proposed observations.

Pablo Pérez-González, an astrophysics professor at the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain and one of several co-investigators on Nørgaard-Nielsen’s proposed observation, said they will use Webb to observe about 40 percent of the HUDF area with MIRI, in roughly the same location that ground-based telescopes like the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) and the Very Large Telescope array (VLT) obtained ultra-deep field data.

The iconic HUDF image shows about 10,000 galaxies in a tiny section of the sky, equivalent to the amount of sky you would see with your naked eye if you looked at it through a soda straw. Many of these galaxies are very faint, more than 1 billion times fainter than what the naked human eye can see, marking them as some of the oldest galaxies within the visible universe.

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With its powerful spectrographic instruments, Webb will see much more detail than imaging alone can provide. Spectroscopy measures the spectrum of light, which scientists analyze to determine physical properties of what is being observed, including temperature, mass, and chemical composition. Pérez-González explained this will allow scientists to study how gases transformed into stars in the first galaxies, and to better understand the first phases in the formation of supermassive black holes, including how those black holes affect the formation of their home galaxy. Astronomers believe the center of nearly every galaxy contains a supermassive black hole, and that these black holes are related to galactic formation.

MIRI can observe in the infrared wavelength range of 5 to 28 microns. Pérez-González said they will use the instrument to observe a section of HUDF in 5.6 microns, which Spitzer is capable of, but that Webb will be able to see objects 250 times fainter and with eight times more spatial resolution. In this case, spatial resolution is the ability of an optical telescope, such as Webb, to see the smallest details of an object.

Pérez-González said in the area of HUDF they will observe, Hubble was able to see about 4,000 galaxies. He added that, with Webb, they “will detect around 2,000 to 2,500 galaxies, but in a completely different spectral band, so many galaxies will be quite different from the ones that [Hubble] detected.”

With NIRCam, the team will observe a piece of the GOODS region near their selected section of HUDF. The entire GOODS survey field includes observations from Hubble, Spitzer, and several other space observatories.

“These NIRCam images will be taken in three bands, and they will be the deepest obtained by any guaranteed time observation team,” explained Pérez-González.

NIRCam can observe in the infrared wavelength range of 0.6 to 5 microns. Pérez-González explained they will use it to observe a section of GOODS in the 1.15 micron band, which Hubble is capable of, but that Webb will be able to see objects 50 times fainter and with two times more spatial resolution. They will also use it to observe the 2.8 and 3.6 micron bands. Spitzer is able to do this as well, but Webb will be able to observe objects nearly 100 times fainter and with eight times greater spatial resolution.

Because the universe is expanding, light from distant objects in the universe is “redshifted,” meaning the light emitted by those objects is visible in the redder wavelengths by the time it reaches us. The objects farthest away from us, those with the highest redshifts, have their light shifted into the near- and mid-infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The Webb telescope is specifically designed to observe the objects in that area of the spectrum, which makes it ideal for looking at the early universe.

“When you build an observatory with unprecedented capabilities, most probably the most interesting results will not be those that you can expect or predict, but those that no one can imagine,” said Pérez-González.

 

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https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171004120459.htm

 

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Violent Helium Reaction on White Dwarf Surface Triggers Supernova Explosion

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

Astronomers have found solid evidence about what triggered a star to explode, which will contribute to a further understanding of supernova history and behavior.

Upper panels show the first two-days observations of a peculiar type Ia supernova, MUSSES1604D, with Subaru/Hyper Suprime-Cam (left and middle) and follow-up observations with the Gemini-North telescope about one month after the first observation (right). Lower panels show the schematic light curves of MUSSES1604D (green circles denote the stages that the supernova is staying during observations).

Credit: Institute of Astronomy, the University of Tokyo

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An international team of researchers has found evidence a supernova explosion that was first triggered by a helium detonation, reports a new study in Nature this week.

A Type Ia supernova is a type of white dwarf star explosion that occurs in a binary star system where two stars are circling one another. Because these supernovae shine 5 billion times brighter than the Sun they are used in astronomy as a reference point when calculating distances of objects in space. However, no one has been able to find solid evidence of what triggers these explosions. Moreover, these explosions only occur once every 100 years in any given galaxy, making them difficult to spot.

“Studying Type Ia supernovae is important because they are a valuable tool researchers use to measure the expansion of the universe. A more precise understanding of their history and behavior will help all researchers obtain more accurate results,” said author and University of Tokyo School of Science Professor Mamoru Doi.

A team of researchers including Senior Scientist Ken’ichi Nomoto, Professor Naoki Yasuda, and Project Assistant Professor Nao Suzuki from the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe, and lead by University of Tokyo School of Science PhD candidate Ji-an Jiang and Professor Doi, Associate Professor Keichi Maeda at Kyoto University, and Dr. Masaomi Tanaka at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, hypothesized Type Ia supernova could be the result of a white dwarf star consuming helium from a companion star. The extra helium coating the star would trigger a violent burning reaction, which in turn would trigger the star to explode from within as a supernova.

To maximize the chances of finding a new or recent Type Ia supernova, the team used the Hyper Suprime-Cam camera on the Subaru Telescope, which can capture a large area of sky at once.

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“Among 100 supernovae we discovered in a single night, we identified a Type Ia supernova that had exploded only within a day before our observation. Surprising, this supernova showed a bright flash in the first day, which we thought must be related to the nature of the explosion. By comparing the observational data with what we calculated on how burning helium would affect brightness and color over time, we found both theory and observation were in good agreement. This is the first time anyone has found solid evidence supporting a theory,” said Maeda.

However, Nomoto says this does not mean they can explain everything about supernovae.

“In this study we found that a supernova was the result of the interaction between a white dwarf star and a companion star made of helium. But do we know whether this companion star was also a white dwarf star or a star much like our Sun? No we don’t,” said Nomoto.

The team will continue to test their theory against other supernovae. Details of their study were published online in Nature on October 4.

 

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https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171005111115.htm

 

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Assembly of massive galaxy cluster witnessed for the first time

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

A dense flock of 14 galaxies from 1.4 billion years after the Big Bang is destined to become one of the most massive structures in the modern universe

For the first time, astronomers have witnessed the birth of a colossal cluster of galaxies. Their observations reveal at least 14 galaxies packed into an area only four times the diameter of the Milky Way’s galactic disk. Computer simulations of the galaxies predict that over time the cluster will assemble into one of the most massive structures in the modern universe.

Astronomers recently discovered a group of interacting and merging galaxies in the early universe, as seen in this artist’s illustration.

Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser; Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC-BY)

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For the first time, astronomers have witnessed the birth of a colossal cluster of galaxies. Their observations reveal at least 14 galaxies packed into an area only four times the diameter of the Milky Way’s galactic disk. Computer simulations of the galaxies predict that over time the cluster will assemble into one of the most massive structures in the modern universe, the astronomers report in the April 26 issue of Nature.

Galaxies within the cluster are churning out stars at an incredible pace, ranging from 50 to 1,000 times the Milky Way’s star formation rate. These rates are higher than can be explained for solitary galaxies, suggesting that the galaxies are influencing one another and are actively assembling into a cluster.

“More so than any other candidate discovered to date, this seems like we’re catching a cluster in the process of being assembled,” says study co-author Chris Hayward, an associate research scientist at the Center for Computational Astrophysics at the Flatiron Institute in New York City. “This is the missing link in our understanding of how clusters form.”

Galaxy clusters are the largest structures held together by gravity in the present-day universe and contain hundreds or even thousands of galaxies. Clusters grow over time as gravity draws in more material. This newborn galaxy cluster, or protocluster, is around 12.4 billion light-years away from Earth. That distance means that the protocluster appears today as it existed 1.4 billion years after the Big Bang.

How the assembly of galaxies got so big so fast “is a bit of a mystery,” says study co-author Scott Chapman, the Killam Professor in astrophysics at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. “It wasn’t built up gradually over billions of years, as you might expect.”

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Chapman, Hayward, Tim Miller of Yale University, and collaborators spotted the protocluster during a follow-up to a survey conducted using the South Pole Telescope in Antarctica. That undertaking inspected around 6 percent of the sky, but with relatively coarse resolution. In those observations, the protocluster was the brightest light source not magnified by the effect of a massive object’s gravity, which bends light like a lens. While bright, the source just looked like a fuzzy blob composed of at least three galaxies. An additional study by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile provided clarity and a surprise.

“It just hit you in the face because all of a sudden there are all these galaxies there,” Chapman says. “We went from three to 14 in one fell swoop. It instantly became obvious this was a very interesting, massive structure forming and not just a flash in the pan.”

In total, the protocluster contains around 10 trillion suns’ worth of mass. All that material in such a confined space means that the galaxies will probably merge over time, rather than drift apart. A numerical simulation developed by Hayward, Chapman and colleagues projected how the protocluster would grow over the next billion years. Over that time span, the 14 galaxies will merge into one giant elliptical galaxy surrounded by a halo of galaxies, stars and dust. The researchers estimate that in the modern-day universe, the cluster will contain roughly 1,000 trillion suns’ worth of mass. That’s comparable to the mass of the Coma cluster of galaxies that lies a few hundred million light-years from Earth.

The surprisingly high star formation rates within the galaxies provide further evidence that the galaxies are forming a cluster, says Hayward. The observed surge of star formation during the protocluster’s assembly fits with the composition of modern galaxy clusters, which contain an abundance of old stars of around the same age. “There’s some special aspect of this environment that’s causing the galaxies to form stars much more rapidly than individual galaxies that aren’t in this special place,” says Hayward. One possible explanation is that the gravitational tug of neighboring galaxies compresses gas within a galaxy, triggering star formation.

The protocluster is a precursor to the larger and more mature galaxy clusters seen in the modern universe, making the protocluster an excellent test bed for learning more about how present-day clusters formed and evolved. Modern clusters, for instance, brim with superheated gas that can reach temperatures of more than 1 million degrees. Scientists aren’t sure how that gas got there, though. The high rate of star formation in the newly discovered protocluster may provide a clue: A deluge of newborn stars in a forming cluster may spew hot gas into the voids between the galaxies. That expelled gas is not dense enough to form stars and instead lingers throughout the cluster.

Further exploration of protoclusters will provide additional insight, Chapman says. The group has already identified two more protoclusters from the South Pole Telescope survey, though they are not as spectacular, he says. “As we flush out the details of those, we’ll see just how similar they are to this structure.”

 

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To see the first-born stars of the universe

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

ASU-led team aims to use new NASA space telescope to capture light from the first stars to be born in the universe..

The galaxy cluster Abell 2744 lies at a distance of about 3.5 billion light-years and contains more than 400 member galaxies. The combined gravity of all the galaxies makes the cluster act as a lens to magnify the light from stars beyond including, the team hopes, the first stars to form in the universe.

Credit: NASA/ESA/Arizona State University (R. Windhorst and F. Timmes)

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About 200 to 400 million years after the Big Bang created the universe, the first stars began to appear. Ordinarily stars lying at such a great distance in space and time would be out of reach even for NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, due for launch in 2020.

However, astronomers at Arizona State University are leading a team of scientists who propose that with good timing and some luck, the Webb Space Telescope will be able to capture light from the first stars to be born in the universe.

“Looking for the first stars has long been a goal of astronomy,” said Rogier Windhorst, Regents’ Professor of astrophysics in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. “They will tell us about the actual properties of the very early universe, things we’ve only modeled on our computers until now.”

Windhorst’s collaborator, Frank Timmes, professor of astrophysics at the School of Earth and Space Exploration, adds, “We want to answer questions about the early universe such as, were binary stars common or were most stars single? How many heavy chemical elements were produced, cooked up by the very first stars, and how did those first stars actually form?

Duho Kim, a School of Earth and Space Exploration graduate student of Windhorst’s, worked on modeling star populations and dust in galaxies.

The other collaborators on the paper are J. Stuart B. Wyithe (University of Melbourne, Australia), Mehmet Alpaslan (New York University), Stephen K. Andrews (University of Western Australia), Daniel Coe (Space Telescope Science Institute), Jose M. Diego (Instituto de Fisica de Cantabria, Spain), Mark Dijkstra (University of Oslo), and Simon P. Driver and Patrick L. Kelly (both University of California, Berkeley).

The team’s paper, published in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement, describes how the challenging observations can be done.

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Gravity’s magnifying lens

The first essential step in the task relies on the infrared sensitivity of the Webb Telescope. While the first stars were large, hot and radiated far-ultraviolet light, they lie so far away that the expansion of the universe has shifted their radiation peak from the ultraviolet to much longer infrared wavelengths. Thus their starlight drops into the Webb Telescope’s infrared detectors like a baseball landing in a fielder’s mitt.

The second essential step is to use the combined gravity of an intervening cluster of galaxies as a lens to focus and magnify the light of the first generation stars. Typical gravitational lensing can magnify light 10 to 20 times, but that’s not enough to make a first-generation star visible to the Webb Telescope. For Webb, the candidate star’s light needs boosting by factor of 10,000 or more.

To gain that much magnification calls for “caustic transits,” special alignments where a star’s light is greatly magnified for a few weeks as the galaxy cluster drifts across the sky between Earth and the star.

Caustic transits occur because a cluster of galaxies acting as a lens doesn’t produce a single image like a reading magnifier. The effect is more like looking through a lumpy sheet of glass, with null zones and hot spots. A caustic is where magnification is greatest, and because the galaxies in the lensing cluster spread out within it, they produce multiple magnifying caustics that trace a pattern in space like a spider web.

 

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Playing the odds

How likely is such an alignment? Small but not zero, say the astronomers, and they note the spider web of caustics helps by spreading a net. Moreover each caustic is asymmetrical, producing a sharp rise to full magnification if a star approaches from one side, but a much slower rise if it approaches from the other side.

“Depending on which side of the caustic it approaches from, a first star would brighten over hours — or several months,” Windhorst explained. “Then after reaching a peak brightness for several weeks, it would fade out again, either slowly or quickly, as it moves away from the caustic line.”

A key attribute of the first stars is that they formed out of the early universe’s mix of hydrogen and helium with no heavier chemical elements such as carbon, oxygen, iron, or gold. Blazingly hot and brilliantly blue-white, the first stars display a textbook simple spectrum like a fingerprint, as calculated by the ASU team using the open software instrument Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics.

Another object potentially visible by the same magnifying effect is an accretion disk around the first black holes to form after the Big Bang. Black holes would be the final evolutionary outcome of the most massive first stars. And if any such stars were in a two-star (binary) system, the more massive star, after collapsing to a black hole, would steal gas from its companion to form a flat disk feeding into the black hole.

An accretion disk would display a different spectrum from a first star as it transits a caustic, producing enhanced brightness at shorter wavelengths from the hot, innermost part of the disk compared to the colder outer zones of it. The rise and decay in brightness would also take longer, though this effect would likely be harder to detect.

Accretion disks are expected to be more numerous because solitary first stars, being massive and hot, race through their lives in just a few million years before exploding as supernovas. However, theory suggests that an accretion disk in a black hole system could shine at least ten times longer than a solitary first star. All else being equal, this would increase the odds of detecting accretion disks.

It’s educated guesswork at this stage, but the team calculates that an observing program which targets several galaxy clusters a couple of times a year for the lifetime of the Webb Telescope could find a lensed first star or black hole accretion disk. The researchers have selected some target clusters, including the Hubble Frontier Fields clusters and the cluster known as “El Gordo.”

“We just have to get lucky and observe these clusters long enough,” Windhorst said. “The astronomical community would need to continue to monitor these clusters during Webb’s lifetime.”

 

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On beyond Webb

Which raises a point. While the Webb Space Telescope will be a technical marvel, it will not have a long operational lifetime like the Hubble Space Telescope. Launched in 1990, the Hubble Telescope is in low Earth orbit and has been serviced by astronauts five times.

The Webb Space Telescope, however, will be placed at a gravitationally stable point in interplanetary space, 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) from Earth. It has been designed to operate for 5 to 10 years, which might with care stretch to about 15 years. But there’s no provision for servicing by astronauts.

Accordingly, Windhorst notes that ASU has joined the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization. This is a consortium of universities and research institutions that will build its namesake telescope on a high and dry mountaintop at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. The site is ideal for infrared observing.

Upon completion in 2026, the GMT will have a light-collecting surface 24.5 meters (80 feet) in diameter, built from seven individual mirrors. (The Webb Space Telescope’s main mirror has 18 sections and a total diameter of 6.5 meters, or 21 feet.) The GMT mirrors are expected to achieve a resolving power 10 times greater than that of the Hubble Space Telescope in the infrared region of the spectrum.

There will be a period during which the Webb Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope will both be in operation.

“We’re planning to make observations of first-generation stars and other objects with the two instruments,” Windhorst said. “This will let us cross-calibrate the results from both.”

The overlap between the two telescopes is important in another way, he said.

“The GMT’s operational lifetime will continue for many decades into the future. This is unlike the Webb Telescope, which will eventually run out of thruster fuel to maintain its orbit in space.”

When that happens, contact with the Webb Telescope will be lost and its mission will come to an end.

Said Windhorst, “One way or another, we are confident we can detect the first stars in the universe.”

 

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Materials provided by Arizona State University

 

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180425120256.htm

 

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Uncovering the secret law of the evolution of galaxy clusters

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

Analysis of gravitational lensing data by an international research team reveals that the evolution of galaxy clusters is dictated by a surprisingly simple law, which clearly shows that they are still growing

Using observational data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Subaru Telescope, the size and mass of galaxy clusters have precisely been measured. The research team analyzed those data and found a simple law that regulates the growth of the clusters. They also showed that the clusters are still young and growing. The newfound law will serve as a tool to clarify the evolutionary history of clusters and the universe.

(Left) Galaxy cluster MACS J1206 observed with the Subaru Telescope. (Right) Magnified image of the left by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Credit: NASA/ESA, Umetsu et al. 2012, ApJ, 755, 56

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As science enthusiasts around the world bid farewell to legendary cosmologist Stephen Hawking, researchers continue to make important discoveries about the evolution of galaxy clusters that capture the imagination.

Now, an international collaboration between Yutaka Fujita at Osaka University and researchers from Taiwan, Italy, Japan, and the United States found a new fundamental law that stipulates the evolution of galaxy clusters. They recently reported the study in The Astrophysical Journal.

Galaxy clusters are the largest celestial body in the Universe. However, it has been difficult to measure their size and mass accurately because they mainly consist of dark matter that we cannot observe directly. One way to observe the dark matter indirectly is to use the gravitational lensing effect based on Einstein’s theory of relativity. Light rays from a galaxy behind a cluster are pulled by the gravity of the cluster as they pass through it, and their paths are bent. This is exactly the same effect as a lens, focusing the light of the distant galaxy and distorting its shape. If we can measure the distortion of the shape for many background galaxies, we can reveal the gravitational field of the cluster, and as a result, we can accurately measure its size and mass.

“One difficulty in our research,” explains Keiichi Umetsu at Academia Sinica in Taiwan, “was that accurate measurements of the distortion were necessary.” To overcome this problem, the research team has used precise observational data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Subaru Telescope operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

Combining with gas temperature data from the Chandra X-ray satellite, the research group statistically examined those latest data and found that they conform to a simple law represented only by the size, mass, and gas temperature of clusters. Moreover, by making full use of computer simulations, they showed that clusters have grown over 4 to 8 billion years according to the law. Theoretically, the law means that those gigantic clusters are still in adolescence, growing by drawing a large amount of surrounding substances with their strong gravity.

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“We’ve discovered the law that regulates the growth of clusters of galaxies,” Fujita says. “Clusters have an internal structure uniquely created in an early growth spurt.”

The law is so simple that we can use it to calibrate cluster mass-observable relations, which are a key ingredient for studying the cosmological laws of the Universe.

“Our research draws us closer to explaining the evolutionary history of clusters and the Universe,” Fujita adds.

 

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https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180424093711.htm

 

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Star-formation ‘fuel tanks’ found around distant galaxies

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

Astronomers have studied six distant starburst galaxies and discovered that five of them are surrounded by turbulent reservoirs of hydrogen gas, the fuel for future star formation

This cartoon shows how gas falling into distant starburst galaxies ends up in vast turbulent reservoirs of cool gas extending 30 000 light-years from the central regions. ALMA has been used to detect these turbulent reservoirs of cold gas surrounding similar distant starburst galaxies. By detecting CH+ for the first time in the distant Universe, this research opens up a new window of exploration into a critical epoch of star formation.

Credit: ESO/L. Benassi

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In the early universe, brilliant starburst galaxies converted vast stores of hydrogen gas into new stars at a furious pace.

The energy from this vigorous star formation took its toll on many young galaxies, blasting away much of their hydrogen gas, tamping down future star formation. For reasons that remained unclear, other young galaxies were somehow able to retain their youthful star-forming power long after similar galaxies settled into middle age.

Shedding light on this mystery, astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) studied six distant starburst galaxies and discovered that five of them are surrounded by turbulent reservoirs of hydrogen gas, the fuel for future star formation.

These star forming “fuel tanks” were uncovered by the discovery of extensive regions of carbon hydride (CH+) molecules in and around the galaxies. CH+ is an ion of the CH molecule and it traces highly turbulent regions in galaxies that are teeming with hydrogen gas.

The new ALMA observations, led by Edith Falgarone (Ecole Normale Supérieure and Observatoire, Paris, France) and appearing in the journal Nature, help explain how galaxies manage to extend their period of rapid star formation.

“By detecting these molecules with ALMA, we discovered that there are huge reservoirs of turbulent gas surrounding distant starburst galaxies. These observations provide new insights into the growth of galaxies and how a galaxy’s environs fuel star formation,” said Edwin Bergin, an astronomer with the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and co-author on the paper.

“CH+ is a special molecule,” said Martin Zwaan, an astronomer at ESO, who contributed to the paper. “It needs a lot of energy to form and is very reactive, which means its lifetime is very short and it can’t be transported far. CH+ therefore traces how energy flows in the galaxies and their surroundings.”

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The observed CH+ reveals dense shock waves, powered by hot, fast galactic winds originating inside the galaxies’ star-forming regions. These winds flow through a galaxy and push material out of it. Their turbulent motions are such that the galaxy’s gravitational pull can recapture part of that material. This material then gathers into turbulent reservoirs of cool, low-density gas, extending more than 30,000 light-years from the galaxy’s star-forming region.

“With CH+, we learn that energy is stored within vast galaxy-sized winds and ends up as turbulent motions in previously unseen reservoirs of cold gas surrounding the galaxy,” said Falgarone. “Our results challenge the theory of galaxy evolution. By driving turbulence in the reservoirs, these galactic winds extend the starburst phase instead of quenching it.”

The team determined that galactic winds alone could not replenish the newly revealed gaseous reservoirs. The researchers suggest that the mass is provided by galactic mergers or accretion from hidden streams of gas, as predicted by current theory.

“This discovery represents a major step forward in our understanding of how the inflow of material is regulated around the most intense starburst galaxies in the early universe,” says ESO’s Director for Science, Rob Ivison, a co-author on the paper. “It shows what can be achieved when scientists from a variety of disciplines come together to exploit the capabilities of one of the world’s most powerful telescopes.”

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

 

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https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170830172500.htm

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Monster Colliding Black Holes Might Lurk on the Edge of Spiral Galaxies

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

Where to find massive black-hole mergers

The outskirts of spiral galaxies like our own could be crowded with colliding black holes of massive proportions and a prime location for scientists hunting the sources of gravitational waves, said researchers. Their study identifies an overlooked region potentially rife with orbiting black holes. Identifying host galaxies of merging massive black holes could help explain how orbiting pairs of black holes form.

RIT researchers propose that the outer gas disk of spiral galaxies could be teeming with black holes that emit gravitational waves as they collide. Shown here is the Southern Pinwheel galaxy seen in ultraviolet light and radio wavelengths. The radio data, colored here in red, reveal the boondocks of the galaxy where orbiting black holes might exist.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/VLA/MPIA

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The outskirts of spiral galaxies like our own could be crowded with colliding black holes of massive proportions and a prime location for scientists hunting the sources of gravitational waves, said researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology in an upcoming paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The RIT study identifies an overlooked region that may prove to be rife with orbiting black holes and the origin of gravitational-wave chirps heard by observatories in the United States and Italy. Identifying the host galaxies of merging massive black holes could help explain how orbiting pairs of black holes form.

Conditions favorable for black-hole mergers exist in the outer gas disks of big spiral galaxies, according to Sukanya Chakrabarti, assistant professor of physics at RIT and lead author of “The Contribution of Outer HI Disks to the Merging Binary Black Hole Populations.”

Until now, small satellite or dwarf galaxies were thought to have the most suitable environment for hosting black-hole populations: a sparse population of stars, unpolluted with heavy metals like iron, gold and platinum — elements spewed in supernovae explosions — and inefficient winds that leave massive stars intact.

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Chakrabarti realized the edges of galaxies like the Milky Wavy have similar environments to dwarf galaxies but with a major advantage — big galaxies are easier to find.

“The metal content in the outer disks of spiral galaxies is also quite low and should be rife with black holes in this large area,” Chakrabarti said.

A co-author on the paper, Richard O’Shaughnessy, assistant professor of mathematical sciences at RIT and a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, said: “This study shows that, when predicting or interpreting observations of black holes, we need to account not only for differences between different types of galaxies but also the range of environments that occur inside of them.”

A deeper understanding of the universe is possible now that scientists can combine gravitational wave astronomy with traditional measurements of bands of light. Existing research shows that even black holes, which are too dense for light to escape, have a gravitational wave and an optical counterpart, remnants of matter from the stellar collapse from which they formed.

“If you can see the light from a black-hole merger, you can pinpoint where it is in the sky,” Chakrabarti said. “Then you can infer the parameters that drive the life cycle of the universe as a whole and that’s the holy grail for cosmology. The reason this is important is because gravitational waves give you a completely independent way of doing it so it doesn’t rely on astrophysical approximations.”

 

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Materials provided by Rochester Institute of Technology. Original written by Susan Gawlowicz

 

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171030154451.htm

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Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

An expanding cloud of atoms could offer insight into unanswered cosmological questions

Researchers playing with a cloud of ultracold atoms uncovered behavior that bears a striking resemblance to the universe in microcosm. Their work forges new connections between atomic physics and the sudden expansion of the early universe.

An expanding, ring-shaped cloud of atoms shares several striking features with the early universe.

Credit: Emily Edwards, University of Maryland

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Researchers playing with a cloud of ultracold atoms uncovered behavior that bears a striking resemblance to the universe in microcosm. Their work, which forges new connections between atomic physics and the sudden expansion of the early universe, will be published in Physical Review X and highlighted by Physics.

“From the atomic physics perspective, the experiment is beautifully described by existing theory,” says Stephen Eckel, an atomic physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the lead author of the new paper. “But even more striking is how that theory connects with cosmology.”

In several sets of experiments, Eckel and his colleagues rapidly expanded the size of a doughnut-shaped cloud of atoms, taking snapshots during the process. The growth happens so fast that the cloud is left humming, and a related hum may have appeared on cosmic scales during the rapid expansion of the early universe — an epoch that cosmologists refer to as the period of inflation.

The work brought together experts in atomic physics and gravity, and the authors say it is a testament to the versatility of the Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) — an ultracold cloud of atoms that can be described as a single quantum object — as a platform for testing ideas from other areas of physics.

“Maybe this will one day inform future models of cosmology,” Eckel says. “Or vice versa. Maybe there will be a model of cosmology that’s difficult to solve but that you could simulate using a cold atomic gas.”

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It’s not the first time that researchers have connected BECs and cosmology. Prior studies mimicked black holes and searched for analogs of the radiation predicted to pour forth from their shadowy boundaries. The new experiments focus instead on the BEC’s response to a rapid expansion, a process that suggests several analogies to what may have happened during the period of inflation.

The first and most direct analogy involves the way that waves travel through an expanding medium. Such a situation doesn’t arise often in physics, but it happened during inflation on a grand scale. During that expansion, space itself stretched any waves to much larger sizes and stole energy from them through a process known as Hubble friction.

In one set of experiments, researchers spotted analogous features in their cloud of atoms. They imprinted a sound wave onto their cloud — alternating regions of more atoms and fewer atoms around the ring, like a wave in the early universe — and watched it disperse during expansion. Unsurprisingly, the sound wave stretched out, but its amplitude also decreased. The math revealed that this damping looked just like Hubble friction, and the behavior was captured well by calculations and numerical simulations.

“It’s like we’re hitting the BEC with a hammer,” says Gretchen Campbell, the NIST co-director of the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) and a coauthor of the paper, “and it’s sort of shocking to me that these simulations so nicely replicate what’s going on.”

In a second set of experiments, the team uncovered another, more speculative analogy. For these tests they left the BEC free of any sound waves but provoked the same expansion, watching the BEC slosh back and forth until it relaxed.

In a way, that relaxation also resembled inflation. Some of the energy that drove the expansion of the universe ultimately ended up creating all of the matter and light around us. And although there are many theories for how this happened, cosmologists aren’t exactly sure how that leftover energy got converted into all the stuff we see today.

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In the BEC, the energy of the expansion was quickly transferred to things like sound waves traveling around the ring. Some early guesses for why this was happening looked promising, but they fell short of predicting the energy transfer accurately. So the team turned to numerical simulations that could capture a more complete picture of the physics.

What emerged was a complicated account of the energy conversion: After the expansion stopped, atoms at the outer edge of the ring hit their new, expanded boundary and got reflected back toward the center of the cloud. There, they interfered with atoms still traveling outward, creating a zone in the middle where almost no atoms could live. Atoms on either side of this inhospitable area had mismatched quantum properties, like two neighboring clocks that are out of sync.

The situation was highly unstable and eventually collapsed, leading to the creation of vortices throughout the cloud. These vortices, or little quantum whirlpools, would break apart and generate sound waves that ran around the ring, like the particles and radiation left over after inflation. Some vortices even escaped from the edge of the BEC, creating an imbalance that left the cloud rotating.

Unlike the analogy to Hubble friction, the complicated story of how sloshing atoms can create dozens of quantum whirlpools may bear no resemblance to what goes on during and after inflation. But Ted Jacobson, a coauthor of the new paper and a physics professor at the University of Maryland specializing in black holes, says that his interaction with atomic physicists yielded benefits outside these technical results.

“What I learned from them, and from thinking so much about an experiment like that, are new ways to think about the cosmology problem,” Jacobson says. “And they learned to think about aspects of the BEC that they would never have thought about before. Whether those are useful or important remains to be seen, but it was certainly stimulating.”

Eckel echoes the same thought. “Ted got me to think about the processes in BECs differently,” he says, “and any time you approach a problem and you can see it from a different perspective, it gives you a better chance of actually solving that problem.”

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Future experiments may study the complicated transfer of energy during expansion more closely, or even search for further cosmological analogies. “The nice thing is that from these results, we now know how to design experiments in the future to target the different effects that we hope to see,” Campbell says. “And as theorists come up with models, it does give us a testbed where we could actually study those models and see what happens.”

The new paper included contributions from two coauthors not mentioned in the text: Avinash Kumar, a graduate student at JQI; and Ian Spielman, a JQI Fellow and NIST physicist.

 

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https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180419141533.htm

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Vast stellar nursery of Lagoon Nebula

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

This colorful cloud of glowing interstellar gas is just a tiny part of the Lagoon Nebula, a vast stellar nursery. This nebula is a region full of intense activity, with fierce winds from hot stars, swirling chimneys of gas, and energetic star formation all embedded within a hazy labyrinth of gas and dust.

To celebrate its 28th anniversary in space the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope took this amazing and colorful image of the Lagoon Nebula. The whole nebula, about 4,000 light-years away, is an incredible 55 light-years wide and 20 light-years tall. This image shows only a small part of this turbulent star-formation region, about four light-years across.

Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI

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This colourful cloud of glowing interstellar gas is just a tiny part of the Lagoon Nebula, a vast stellar nursery. This nebula is a region full of intense activity, with fierce winds from hot stars, swirling chimneys of gas, and energetic star formation all embedded within a hazy labyrinth of gas and dust. Hubble used both its optical and infrared instruments to study the nebula, which was observed to celebrate Hubble’s 28th anniversary.

Since its launch on 24 April 1990, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionised almost every area of observational astronomy. It has offered a new view of the Universe and has reached and surpassed all expectations for a remarkable 28 years. To celebrate Hubble’s legacy and the long international partnership that makes it possible, each year ESA and NASA celebrate the telescope’s birthday with a spectacular new image. This year’s anniversary image features an object that has already been observed several times in the past: the Lagoon Nebula.

The Lagoon Nebula is a colossal object 55 light-year wide and 20 light-years tall. Even though it is about 4000 light-years away from Earth, it is three times larger in the sky than the full Moon. It is even visible to the naked eye in clear, dark skies. Since it is relatively huge on the night sky, Hubble is only able to capture a small fraction of the total nebula. This image is only about four light-years across, but it shows stunning details.

The inspiration for this nebula’s name may not be immediately obvious in this image. It becomes clearer only in a wider field of view, when the broad, lagoon-shaped dust lane that crosses the glowing gas of the nebula can be made out. This new image, however, depicts a scene at the very heart of the nebula.

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View Sample Video – Cosmology – Universe – Nebulae

Like many stellar nurseries, the nebula boasts many large, hot stars. Their ultraviolet radiation ionises the surrounding gas, causing it to shine brightly and sculpting it into ghostly and other-worldly shapes. The bright star embedded in dark clouds at the centre of the image is Herschel 36. Its radiation sculpts the surrounding cloud by blowing some of the gas away, creating dense and less dense regions.

Among the sculptures created by Herschel 36 are two interstellar twisters — eerie, rope-like structures that each measure half a light-year in length. These features are quite similar to their namesakes on Earth — they are thought to be wrapped into their funnel-like shapes by temperature differences between the hot surfaces and cold interiors of the clouds. At some point in the future, these clouds will collapse under their own weight and give birth to a new generation of stars.

Hubble observed the Lagoon Nebula not only in visible light but also at infrared wavelengths. While the observations in the optical allow astronomers to study the gas in full detail, the infrared light cuts through the obscuring patches of dust and gas, revealing the more intricate structures underneath and the young stars hiding within it. Only by combining optical and infrared data can astronomers paint a complete picture of the ongoing processes in the nebula.

 

Story Source:

Materials provided by ESA/Hubble Information Centre

 

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180419130930.htm

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