Ancient ‘Monster Galaxy’ Is Forming Stars a Thousand Times Faster Than the Milky Way

By Ryan F. Mandelbaum

Chile’s Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has observed a galaxy that looks nothing like what researchers expected. It’s forming stars at an absolutely incredible rate.

The “Monster Galaxy”, also known as COSMOS-AzTEC-1, formed just 2 billion years after the Big Bang, and it turns more than a thousand Suns worth of gas into stars each year. Scientists still don’t understand these early galaxies very well, but now they have some new information that can shed light on why they form stars so blisteringly fast.

Essentially, the clumpy gas inside the galaxy has a stronger gravitational pull on itself than the force of the galaxy’s rotation or repulsion from stars and supernovae, according to the observations published today in Nature.

Scientists discovered galaxies like AzTEC-1 only two decades ago, according to the paper, and have studied them to try and understand extreme starburst events. By extreme, I mean the galaxy is forming stars a thousand times faster than the Milky Way does. These ancient galaxies are thought to be the ancestors of today’s elliptical galaxies, according to a press release. 

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