Galaxy Formation


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1 INTRODUCTION

There were no stars, just gas — mostly hydrogen, some helium, traces of lithium and beryllium — from which, the first stars would be eventually formed. According to theory, these first stars had a larger mass and were brighter than those we see nowadays.

Galaxy formation: The new Milky Way

They lived for only a million years before they exploded spectacularly, shooting the chemical elements accumulated inside their cores into space. Even the most powerful telescopes that currently exist are not able to detect light coming from individual stars belonging to this first generation.


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Space telescopes in the future will be technically capable of registering the huge light issued by the explosion of this type of stars, but the opportunities to do so — even once — during the life span of an observatory are rare. What is a pulsar? They tend to be found in clusters of dozens to a few hundred members. Different types of galaxies include spiral galaxies such as our own Milky Way, rich in dust and gas with stars still forming in their arms; elliptical galaxies devoid of gas, lenticular galaxies and irregular galaxies such our neighbours the Magellanic Clouds and the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy.

Astronomers have do not yet have a complete understanding of how galaxies formed.

Galaxy Formation | StarDate Online

We know that they formed early in the history of the Universe and recent deep observations by telescopes such as the HST at optical wavelengths and ATCA at radio wavelengths show evidence of galactic evolution over time. We do not yet have a definitive model of how galaxies form. Indeed this is a lively and active area of debate among astrophysicists. One of the many problems they face in trying to construct a useful model is the need to match observations of galaxies in the current or nearby Universe with those and those in the early Universe with theoretical simulations.

Recent work on the role of dark matter in the early Universe has led to the hierarchical or bottom-up model gaining wide acceptance. In the bottom-up model, the Universe contains cold dark matter CDM. The "cold" in this case refers to the average speed of the dark matter particles, they are relatively slow compared to the speed of light.

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These irregularities can be seen as anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background radiation CMBR as measured by the WMAP satellite and other instruments. As the Universe expands these slight irregularities and the resultant gravitational instabilities cause gas clouds to collapse, forming extremely high-mass stars. These are thought to be among the first structures to form after the decoupling era.


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Gravity therefore plays the dominant role in galaxy formation. These proto-galactic structures then interact and merge into larger structures now known as galaxies. Present-day galaxies typically have masses of 10 11 solar masses so must have undergone numerous mergers.


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  6. Interactions and mergers between early galaxies also caused higher rates of star formation than we now observe in most nearby galaxies. Where galaxy interactions are common successive mergers are thought to mop up gas not bound in stars and smooth the shape. Large elliptical galaxies are the result. Examples of these in the nearby Universe show little or no free gas and low rates or no star formation.

    We will observe gravitational waves in space

    If a galaxy evolves in relative isolation with few interactions then a spiral galaxy is likely to be the result. We can observe star formation still taking place in the arms of spirals. The model described in this section is only one possibility and there are still many questions to be answered.

    Spiral Galaxy Formation Animation
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