SDP.81: Astronomers locate massive galaxy 11.7 billion light-years far

In a new finding, researchers have discovered a gigantic galaxy 11.7 billion light-years from the Earth. Scientists say that it is on of the farthest galaxy discovered yet. The newly discovered monstrous galaxy is also said to be developing nearly thousand times faster than our galaxy — Milky Way.

Yoichi Tamura and Masamune Oguri, assistant professors at the University of Tokyo, together with researchers at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), discovered the galaxy at the verge of the universe and named it as Session Description Protocol .81 (SDP.81). They used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to find the galaxy in the constellation named Hydra.

ALMA is an astronomical interferometer of radio telescopes and boasts 66 high precision radio telescope antennas. As the name suggests, it is located in the Atacama desert of northern Chile because a dry site is best suitable for millimeter wavelength operations.

Researchers say that they have taken detailed image of SDP.81 with the help of gravitational lens formed by galaxies located at 3.4 light years far from the Earth that acted as a natural telescope. The discovery has open new gates for astronomical advances as it shows that the gravitational lens could be used as a new astronomical tool to locate more distant astronomical bodies.

Gravitational lens also known as gravitational lensing is a perfect example to Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity which states that a massive object bends web of space and time. A gravitational lens is distribution of matter (such as group of galaxies) between a distant source and an observer, that is capable of bending the light from the source, as it travels towards the observer. Researchers used a rare case when a galaxy intervenes in between observer and the distant galaxy to get a brighter, sharper and magnified image.

Researchers using ALMA detected radio waves with a wavelength of one millimeter emitted by cold molecular gas and dust, the ingredients of stars and planets, with a resolution of 23 milliarcseconds. Scientists say that it is beyond the scope of NASA’s Hubble telescope to take such a sharper image of a galaxy as far as SDP .81. While examining the images, astronomers found several massive dust clouds of sizes between 200 light years to 500 light years scattered within an elliptical region of 5,000 light years. According to the scientists, planets and stars are born within these dust clouds.

“This one data set has spawned an entire series of highly intriguing research, confirming that ALMA offers the astronomical community new avenues to probe the distant universe,” said Todd Hunter, part of the ALMA observatory team.

The model made by astronomers depicts the presence of a massive black hole at the center of the galaxy that is nearly 300 million times larger than our Sun.

This is the first time that astronomers have been able to construct such a detailed model of a distant galaxy.

The study appeared in the Astronomical Society of Japan’s journal

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