St Albans astronomer investigates evolution of the galaxy
PUBLISHED: 18:03 17 December 2014
An international team of astronomers led by a St Albans researcher has revealed the dramatic 'blow-out' phase of galactic evolution, for the first time.
Dr James Geach, a Royal Society-funded astronomer based at the University of Hertfordshire, said the team had discovered dense gas being blasted from a compact galaxy at speeds of up to two million miles per hour.
The gas is being driven to distances of tens of thousands of light years by the intense pressure exerted on it by the radiation of stars that are forming rapidly at the galaxy’s centre.
Dr Geach said this was having a major impact on the evolution of the galaxy.
Stars are born from clouds of hydrogen, so by removing this gas, the galaxy can rapidly shut down its star formation.
And there is enough gas in the outflowing material to form the equivalent of over a billion Suns.
The astronomers observed this compact galaxy, called ‘SDSS J0905+57, through a radio telescope based in the French Alps.
After detecting the molecule carbon monoxide, the experts were able to infer the amount of hydrogen gas present.
Dr Geach said their find had been a surprise as originally he and his fellow astronomers were simply trying to measure the amount of dense gas in the compact galaxy.
He described the team’s research as “an important new clue in our understanding of the evolution of galaxies”.