Copious Amounts Of Carbon Found In A Galaxy Far Far Away!

Something surprising, but not quite revolutionary. A galaxy far far away is giving strong carbon signature from throughout its surface. Using the recently upgraded IRAM (standing for Institute for Radio Astronomy in Millimeter Range) array of radio telescopes, researchers were able to observe the galaxy and the supermassive blackhole at its center.

Astronomers have named the galaxy J1120+0641 and what they are observing now is the state the galaxy was more than 13 billion years ago, just 740 million years after the Big Bang! That’s how far it is from us. During this time, almost the entire Universe was made up of hydrogen or helium.

J1120+0641: Left - Seen in visual. Right - Seen in the submillimeter radio range using IRAM. (Photo Courtesy: IRAM)

Encoded Messages Tell A Fascinating Tale

The copious signals of carbon, given by the spectrum of carbon, and of UV indicate that the galaxy is undergoing – or rather had undergone – a very active carbon-forming phase. The UV is due to the fact that the photon is heating up the dust in the interstellar medium and causing ionization. The sheer amount of carbon is mind-boggling, telling us that a lot of massive stars are burning their way through.

This leads to one conclusion – a lot of star formation must have been going on in this region since the Big Bang, but then that’s pretty strange. Though it doesn’t contradict any of the stellar formation theories known, this is still pretty surprising that we should be seeing so much activity so soon after the Big Bang.

Bram Venemans, of Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, says:

The presence of so much carbon confirms that massive star formation must have occurred in the short period between the Big Bang and the time we are now observing the galaxy.

The researchers owe a debt to the IRAM facility, which has just upgraded its signal processing capabilities, allowing the observers to observe on more number of channels and thus cut out noise. This makes seeing faraway galaxies possible.

Published by

Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.