NMSU Astronomy professor Dr. Moire Prescott recently co-authored an article in Nature on the surprising discovery of a massive, fast-spinning, disk-shaped galaxy in the early Universe that appears to be “dead”, in that it has long since stopped making any new stars. Dr. Prescott contributed the dynamical modeling demonstrating that the galaxy is rotating more than twice as fast as the Milky Way. The results were highlighted in a Space Telescope Science Institute press release on June 21, 2017 (excerpt below) as well as in a local NMSU/Las Cruces Sun-News “Eye on Research” piece.
The full Space Telescope Science Institute press release is available here.
Hubble Captures Massive Dead Disk Galaxy that Challenges Theories of Galaxy Evolution
Young, Dead, Compact, Disk Galaxy Surprises Astronomers, Offers New Clues to How Modern-Day Elliptical Galaxies Formed
Astronomers combined the power of a “natural lens” in space with the capability of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to make a surprising discovery—the first example of a compact yet massive, fast-spinning, disk-shaped galaxy that stopped making stars only a few billion years after the big bang. Researchers say that finding such a galaxy so early in the history of the universe challenges the current understanding of how massive galaxies form and evolve. Astronomers expected to see a chaotic ball of stars formed through galaxies merging together. Instead, they saw evidence that the stars were born in a pancake-shaped disk. The galaxy, called MACS 2129-1, is considered “dead” because it is no longer making stars. This new insight is forcing astronomers to rethink their theories of how galaxies burn out early on and evolve into local elliptical-shaped galaxies. “Perhaps we have been blind to the fact that early ‘dead’ galaxies could in fact be disks, simply because we haven’t been able to resolve them,” said study leader Sune Toft of the Dark Cosmology Center at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen.