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Galactic ‘hailstorm’ in the early Universe

last modified Jan 20, 2015 10:10 AM

A group of scientists led by Claudia Cicone (PhD student at Cavendish) and Prof. Roberto Maiolino (Cavendish), have discovered an extremely powerful outflow of gas in a very distant galaxy, at redshift 6.42, close to the epoch of formation of the first galaxies, when the age of the universe was “only” 860 million years (i.e. 6% of its current age).

The massive outflow is driven by a quasar (a supermassive accreting black hole), hosted in the central region, and is removing most of the galaxy's gas content, which is the fuel for star formation.

Therefore, the quasar is in the process of profoundly affecting the evolution of its host galaxy.

The result was obtained thanks to deep observations obtained at mm-wavelengths with the IRAM Plateau de Bure Interferometer (on the French Alps), with 50 hours of observations.

These results have prompted another group at the Institute of Astronomy to develop a theoretical model that nicely reproduces the physical properties of the observed outflow.

Visit the associated press release for more information.