Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Scientists detect water in galaxy 12.8 billion light years from Earth!

 This is the furthest record of water so far. Researchers found the signals in galaxy SPT0311-58 - the most massive in the early universe. A team of scientists has detected signs of water and carbon monoxide in the most massive galaxy in the early universe, which is 12.8 billion light-years from Earth and is named (unfriendly) SPT0311-58. The distance, of course, is hard to imagine. To get an idea, between Earth and Sun there are a modest eight light minutes. SPT0311-58 is so far away that its light takes billions of years to reach us – that is, we see what the galaxy was like in the past. Scientists can see it at the time of reionization, when the first stars and galaxies were forming, at an early stage in the universe.

 The new discoveries were made from observations made by radio telescopes from ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter Array), an observatory located in the Atacama Desert, in Chile. The results were reported in the study published in The Astrophysical Journal. This is considered the most detailed investigation ever done into molecular gas content in a galaxy in the early universe. It is also the most distant detection of water in a star-forming galaxy. “Oxygen and carbon, in particular, are first generation elements. In the molecular forms of carbon monoxide and water, they are essential for life as we know it,” said Sreevani Jarugula, an astronomer at the University of Illinois, USA, and lead author of the study. The fact that SPT0311-58 is a massive galaxy helped with the discoveries: “There is more gas and dust compared to other galaxies in the early universe”, says the researcher. "This gives us many potential opportunities to observe abundant molecules and better understand how these life-creating elements impacted the development of the universe."

 There is a correlation between the infrared emission of dust and the presence of water: “Dust absorbs ultraviolet radiation from stars and re-emits it as infrared photons”, explains Jarugula. "This stimulates the molecules, causing an emission of water that scientists can see." Studying the formation of the first galaxies helps scientists better understand their properties and how they interact with each other, as well as the emergence and evolution of the universe.

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