St Albans astronomer investigates mysteries of universe using Hubble telescope

St Albans astronomer Dr Jim Geach has been studying the evolution of galaxies

St Albans astronomer Dr Jim Geach has been studying the evolution of galaxies - Credit: photo supplied

The NASA Hubble space telescope has helped a St Albans astronomer uncover new insights into the processes that have helped shape galaxies.

An international team of astronomers, including local researcher Dr Jim Geach from the University of Hertfordshire, has been unlocking mysteries of the universe including how all the galaxies we see around us came to be.

Before their study, it was assumed that stars alone could not drive out gas to the velocities the team observed, and that something more powerful like a black hole would be needed.

The astronomers have now challenged that belief; showing that if a galaxy is compact enough and forming stars at a high rate, it will produce the velocity required without needing a central black hole.

Dr Geach, co-author of the paper led by Paul Sell, Texas Tech University in Lubbock, said: “We have discovered a remarkable class of galaxy that compared to the Milky Way is extremely compact and it has recently been forming stars hundreds of times faster.

“This phase of evolution is very brief, so these things are hard to find. Our analysis is providing key information on a poorly understood part of galaxy information.”

The team of international experts have been using NASA’s Hubble space telescope and its Chandra X-ray observatory telescope – which allows scientists from around the world to obtain images of environments to help understand the structure and evolution of the universe.

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This telescope is specially designed to detect X-ray emissions from very hot regions of the universe, such as exploded stars, clusters of galaxies and matter around black holes.

The paper itself analyses 12 galaxies, each at the final stage of a ‘merger’ where two individual galaxies have collided.

New star formations are triggered when merger galaxies cause gas and stars to pile up at the centre.