The cosmic stream, rich in carbon atoms, flows toward the massive 4C 41.17 galaxy, also known as the Anthill Galaxy.
Unraveling the Birth of Galaxies through a Gas Stream in the Early Universe
A groundbreaking discovery of a gas stream in the early universe has unveiled new insights into how galaxies are formed. The findings, published in the journal Science, were made using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope.
Cosmic Stream Feeds Distant Anthill Galaxy
The cosmic stream, rich in carbon atoms, flows toward the massive 4C 41.17 galaxy, also known as the Anthill Galaxy. Composed of numerous smaller galaxies, the Anthill Galaxy is set to merge into a single colossal galaxy under the influence of gravity. The galaxy’s light emerged around 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang, allowing scientists to glimpse very early stages in the universe’s history.
Gas Stream: The Building Blocks of Stars
Lead researcher Bjorn Emonts, from the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), likens the cosmic stream to rivers flowing into the ocean. The cold, carbon-rich gas provides the raw materials necessary for the formation of new stars. The gas received by the Anthill Galaxy could create hundreds of new stars annually, contributing to its continuous growth.
Cosmic Web: The Universe’s Intricate Network
The science team suggests that the cosmic stream originates from the “cosmic web,” a vast network of interconnected filaments of gas, galaxies, and dark matter spanning the universe. This discovery implies that the Anthill Galaxy is not developing in isolation but is connected to a large-scale gas reservoir throughout the universe.
Surprising Carbon Presence and Future Observations
The cosmic web is believed to consist primarily of hydrogen and helium, the primordial elements created during the Big Bang. The discovery of a significant amount of carbon in the stream was unexpected, as carbon and other elements are produced exclusively in stars. The presence of carbon may indicate that the stream carries small galaxies whose stars enrich the stream with carbon and other “building” materials before reaching the Anthill.
The researchers hope that future ALMA observations will unveil whether carbon-rich cosmic streams are also connected to other distant Anthill-like galaxies, creating a cosmic network of supply lines that contribute to the formation of galaxies.
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