A huge and dusty star-forming galaxy like Mambo-9  could look like this in visible light according to an artist’s impression (Illustration: NRAO/AUI/NSF/B. Saxton).

Giant galaxy is almost as old as the Universe it self

Tuesday 17 Dec 19


Georgios Magdis
Associate Professor
DTU Space

Cosmic Dawn Center (DAWN)

The Cosmic Dawn Center (DAWN) is an international basic research center funded by the Danish National Research Foundation.

The center is dedicated to uncovering how and when the first galaxies, stars and black holes formed.

DAWN is located in Copenhagen at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, and at the National Space Institute of the Danish Technical University (DTU-Space). It's a cooperation between the two universities.

Researchers have spotted that an enormous galaxy grew very big surprisingly fast after Big Bang. This has been discovered using the ALMA telescope in an international collaboration with contributions from DTU Space and the University of Copenhagen.

An international team of researchers has discovered that a giant galaxy composed of a large number of stars, gases and stardust must have grown surprinsingly quick.

At 13 billion light years away, it is the most distant dusty star-forming galaxy ever to have been seen directly. It also means that the galaxy called mambo-9 it was formed relatively short time after the Big Bang occurred some 13.8 billion years ago. The research results are now published in Astrophysical Journal.

“That we have been able to observe this type of galaxy, so near the Big Bang, is a fantastic achievement. We are surprised that a 13 billion-year-old galaxy is so large and massive so shortly after the Big Bang. We wonder how a galaxy could get so big in such a short time” said Astrophysicist Georgios Magdis, an associate professor at DTU Space and at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

He one of the contributers to the article just published in Astrophysical Journal.

The most intense star producers in the universe

" We wonder how a galaxy could get so big in such a short time"
Georgios Magdis, associate professor at DTU Space and at the Niels Bohr Institute

The dusty star-forming galaxies are the most intense star producers in the universe. 

They form stars at a rate up to a few thousand times the mass of the Sun every year, whereas the star-forming rate of our Milky Way is only three solar masses per year.

“Dusty galaxies produce large numbers of stars and play an important role in the shaping of our universe. However, because dust interferes with light emanating from them, they are impossible to see with regular telescopes,” said another author Sinclaire Manning, a Ph.D. student writing her dissertation about the study and a Guest Researcher at the Cosmic Dawn Center (DAWN). 

The DAWN research center is located at DTU Space and the Niels Bohr Institute.

Dust makes this type of galaxies difficult to observe

 Even though the Mambo-9 galaxy was first discovered 10 years ago, only now has its distance from Earth been measured. 

This has been achieved using the Earth based ALMA telescopes placed in Chile, that are able to precisely measure galaxies like Mambo-9, in which incredibly large amounts of star-forming gases and dust keep them hidden from view.

The researchers have calculated that the galaxy has grown bigger now and most likely contains hundreds of times more stars than the Milky Way.

“This distant galaxy offers a snapshot of a galaxy’s infancy, shortly after the Big Bang. It is highly likely that a lot has happened within this galaxy over the past 13 billion years. What we are able to see is a galaxy full of dust and gas, one that is ready to produce billions of stars. Later in its life, it will most likely be one of the most star producing galaxies in the universe,” said Georgio Magdis.

The discovery of Mambo-9’s distance is the result of a major new study using the ALMA telescope that consists of 66 individual telescopes.

In the study, the telescope was aimed towards a very dark area of the sky to investigate how many dusty galaxies it could find in the primordial universe. Mambo-9 is the first of a number of galaxies to be selected for closer inspection.

“The next step will be to characterize the remaining dusty star-forming galaxies that the ALMA study is discovering. We expect discover more galaxies that contain just as much dust and gas, and are just as far off – or perhaps even further away,” says Sinclaire Manning.

Related videos  

video thumbnail image

video thumbnail image

Photo: Thomas Hjort Jensen

News and filters

Get updated on news that match your filter.