Thanks to a lucky cosmic alignment, astronomers have a rare opportunity to observe a galaxy in the early universe that provided its surroundings with the building blocks needed to create future stars and galaxies. Experts have discovered that distant galaxies have been spewing out the elements needed to form galaxies and stars. The galaxy A169-zD1 was found to have gas flowing past its edges and is said to be the earliest known ordinary galaxy. It was discovered in the magnified light of a large galaxy cluster called Abell 1989, which can enhance, bend or gravitationally lens light from the earliest galaxies.

A169-zD1 doesn’t produce many stars, causing it to appear dimmer than other galaxies seen through telescopes. Here, star clusters help boost the light by a factor of nearly 10.

Astronomers have submitted their findings to arXiv.org.

Astronomer Hollis Adkins and his colleagues used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a network of large radio telescopes, to study light. They looked at the intensities of specific spectral lines for oxygen and carbon, representing hot ionized and cold neutral gases, respectively.

“A169-zD1 is in the very early days of the universe – just 700 years after the Big Bang. This is the era when galaxies were just beginning to form. The evidence we see in these new observations suggests that these processes may have contributed to what we call normal galaxies. Rather than the evolution of massive galaxies. What’s more, these processes are processes that we didn’t think apply to these normal galaxies before,” said Agins, an undergraduate in at Grinnell College and the study’s lead author.

See also  NASA's Spitzer telescope captures images of the Cat's Claw Nebula

As the hot gas was tracked near the bright star, astronomers were surprised to find that the cold gas stretched four times as far.

“There has to be some mechanism to release carbon into the circumgalactic medium,” Atkins said. He suspects that the outflow of gas from galaxies may be to smaller galaxies merging with them, or due to the heat from star formation pushing the gas out.

Tracking the gas, the researchers noted that the overall motion of the hot gas was greater than that of the cold gas. According to Arkin, this means that hot gas is being pushed from the center of the galaxy to the outer regions.

Hot gases flow out and expand before cooling in the process, Akin explained. This causes cold gas to appear to flow over the edges of A169-zD1. The findings show that the gas outflow phenomenon occurs not only in extreme and ultra-bright galaxies, but also in normal galaxies.