Astronomers using a world-wide collection of telescopes have discovered the most prolific star-churning galaxy in the cosmos - from when the Universe was only six per cent of its current age.
The galaxy, dubbed HFLS3, 12.8 billion light-years from Earth, is producing the equivalent of nearly 3,000 Suns per year, a rate more than 2, 000 times that of our own Milky Way.
The galaxy is massive, with a huge reservoir of gas from which to form new stars.
“This is the most detailed look into the physical properties of such a distant galaxy ever made,” said Dominik Riechers, of Cornell University.
“Getting detailed information on galaxies like this is vitally important to understanding how galaxies, as well as groups and clusters of galaxies, formed in the early Universe,” he added.
To accurately determine the galaxy’s distance and characteristics required observations with 12 international telescope facilities, including both orbiting and ground-based telescopes.
The National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) provided information about cold molecular gas from which new stars are being formed and the radio waves emitted by the remnants of deceased, short-lived, very massive stars.
The scientists found that the galaxy has a mass of stars nearly 40 billion times the mass of the Sun, and gas and dust totalling more than 100 billion times the mass of the Sun, all surrounded by enough mysterious dark matter to eventually build an entire cluster of galaxies.
“This galaxy is proof that very intense bursts of star formation existed only 880 million years after the Big Bang. “We’ve gotten a valuable look at a very important epoch in the development of the first galaxies,” Mr. Riechers added.
Researchers said the Universe currently is about 13.7 billion years old.
“The VLA can give us information about the cold gas and radio emission in these galaxies, while ALMA can tell us about the warmer gas and dust,” Mr. Riechers said.