Scientists using the European Space Agency’s Herschel space observatory have discovered a young galaxy acting in unexpectedly mature ways. The galaxy, called S0901, is rotating in a calm manner typical of more developed galaxies like our own spiral Milky Way.
“Usually, when astronomers examine galaxies in an early era, they find that turbulence plays a much greater role than it does in modern galaxies. But S0901 is a clear exception to that pattern,” said James Rhoads of Arizona State University. He is lead author of the research, appearing in the May 20 issue of Astrophysical Journal.
It has taken the light from the galaxy 10 billion years to reach Earth across space, so scientists are seeing it when it was comparatively young.
The young galaxy is seen above as the bright arc to the left of the central bright galaxy. The distorted view of S0901 is caused by gravitational lensing resulting from one or more galaxies that lie between Earth and S0901. Although lensing distorts the image, it also magnifies it. This effect enabled scientists to study the galaxy with Herschel.
“This is a truly surprising result that reminds us that we still don’t understand many details of the evolution of the universe. Facilities like Herschel help us understand this complex story,” said Paul Goldsmith, the U.S. Herschel project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.