Astronomers Capture the Sharpest Image yet of a Monster Galaxy 12.4 Billion Light Years Away

A team of scientists obtained a magnificent photograph of a faraway galaxy, reminding us all how little we are in the grand scheme of things.

Artist’s impression of the monster galaxy COSMOS-AzTEC-1. This galaxy is located 12.4 billion light-years away and is forming stars 1000 times more rapidly than our Milky Way Galaxy. ALMA observations revealed dense gas concentrations in the disk, and intense star formation in those concentrations. (Credit: National Astronomical Observatory of Japan)
This monster galaxy' is around 12 billion light-years away from Earth and produces new stars 1,000 times faster than our own Milky Way galaxy.

Scientists utilized the £1.1 billion ALMA Observatory in Chile to capture views of the galaxy with a resolution ten times better than any previous attempt, naming it 'COSMOS-AzTEC-1.'

The measurements revealed previously unknown information on the structure of this starburst galaxy, which is thought to have originated in the first billion years following the big bang.

Monster galaxy COSMOS-AzTEC-1 observed with ALMA. ALMA revealed the distribution of molecular gas (left) and dust particles (right). In addition to the dense cloud in the center, the research team found two dense clouds several thousand light-years away from the center. These dense clouds are dynamically unstable and thought to be the sites of intense star formation. (Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Tadaki et al.)

‘We found that there are two distinct large clouds several thousand light-years away from the centre,’ said Ken-ichi Tadaki, of the National Astronomical Observatory in Tokyo, Japan which worked with the University of Massachusetts Amherst to make the observations.

That's a significant achievement.

Monster galaxies, also known as starburst galaxies, are thought to be ancestors of massive galaxies like the Milky Way in today's universe. This image is an artist's impression of ZF-COSMOS-20115, 

The Milky Way is composed of a single, dense center with spiral arms extending outwards. COSMOS-AzTEC-1, on the other hand, has three cores – or two smaller cores with their own discs several light-yearsyears away from the central one.

‘In most distant starburst galaxies, stars are actively formed in the centre. So it is surprising to find off-centre clouds,’ Tadaki said.

In contrast to other galaxies, this one looks to be highly unstable.

According to the researchers, the sheer weight of the galaxy from its massive cloud of gas exerts too much pressure on the core, which the outward spin cannot compensate for. Gravity pressing inwards and pressure pushing outwards are balanced in a typical galaxy. This one, on the other hand, is undergoing a huge gravitational collapse, which is most likely what is triggering its rapid star production.

According to the team, the entire monstrous galaxy will disintegrate in roughly 100 million years. But they have yet to explain how it became so gigantic in the first place.