From ESO: “The Wild Early Lives of Today’s Most Massive Galaxies”

Dramatic star formation cut short by black holes
25 January 2012

“Using the APEX telescope, a team of astronomers has found the strongest link so far between the most powerful bursts of star formation in the early Universe, and the most massive galaxies found today. The galaxies, flowering with dramatic starbursts in the early Universe, saw the birth of new stars abruptly cut short, leaving them as massive — but passive — galaxies of aging stars in the present day. The astronomers also have a likely culprit for the sudden end to the starbursts: the emergence of supermassive black holes.


Astronomers have combined observations from the LABOCA camera on the ESO-operated 12-metre Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope [1] with measurements made with ESO’s Very Large Telescope, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, and others, to look at the way that bright, distant galaxies are gathered together in groups or clusters.

The APEX telescope

The more closely the galaxies are clustered, the more massive are their halos of dark matter — the invisible material that makes up the vast majority of a galaxy’s mass. The new results are the most accurate clustering measurements ever made for this type of galaxy.

The galaxies are so distant that their light has taken around ten billion years to reach us, so we see them as they were about ten billion years ago. In these snapshots from the early Universe, the galaxies are undergoing the most intense type of star formation activity known, called a starburst.

‘This is the first time that we’ve been able to show this clear link between the most energetic starbursting galaxies in the early Universe, and the most massive galaxies in the present day,’ explains Ryan Hickox (Dartmouth College, USA and Durham University, UK), the lead scientist of the team.

The 12-metre-diameter APEX telescope is located on the Chajnantor plateau in the foothills of the Chilean Andes. APEX is a pathfinder for ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, a revolutionary new telescope that ESO, together with its international partners, is building and operating, also on the Chajnantor plateau. APEX is itself based on a single prototype antenna constructed for the ALMA project. The two telescopes are complementary: for example, APEX can find many targets across wide areas of sky, which ALMA will be able to study in great detail. APEX is a collaboration between the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR), the Onsala Space Observatory (OSO) and ESO.”

See the full article here. There is much more to this than I can possibly show you here.


Paranal Platform The VLT

La Silla

ALMA Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array

The European Extremely Large Telescope

ESO Very Large Survey Telescope

VISTA (the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy)

ESO, the European Southern Observatory, builds and operates a suite of the world’s most advanced ground-based astronomical telescopes.

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