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Glowing 'Giant Green Blob' Mystery, Unlocked

Glowing 'Giant Green Blob' Mystery, Unlocked

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First Posted: Sep 22, 2016 02:17 AM EDT
Lyman-alpha blob LAB-1
This image shows one of the largest known single objects in the Universe, the Lyman-alpha blob LAB-1. This picture is a composite of two different images taken with the FORS instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) — a wider image showing the surrounding galaxies and a much deeper observation of the blob itself at the centre made to detect its polarisation. The intense Lyman-alpha ultraviolet radiation from the blob appears green after it has been stretched by the expansion of the Universe during its long journey to Earth. These new observations show for the first time that the light from this object is polarised. This means that the giant "blob" must be powered by galaxies embedded within the cloud. ESO/M. Hayes / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0

The mysterious glowing of the giant green blob of gas and dust known as Lyman-alpha blob or LAB-1 has been finally figured out by the astronomers. The blob's luminosity is caused by large and star-rich galaxies that were observed at the center of the blob.

Space reports that the astronomers identified the blob's central galaxies through the Atacama Large Millimeters/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. They spotted a pair of galaxies tossing new stars that are 100 times faster than the Milky Way. It has been 15 years that the astronomers have been solving its mysteriously glowing green luminosity.

The astronomers also used the Hubble Space Telescope to be able to map the region that surrounds the LAB-1. They found that the galaxies seem to be amalgamating into a galaxy cluster. They said that the surrounding galaxies are likely delivering material for the duo's rapid star formation. This duo would likely join together and become an elliptical galaxy, according to UPI.

To validate the source of the blob's glow the astronomers used the Feedback in Realistic Environment, which is a model that simulate the galaxy evolution. This showed the light from the plethora of the newborn stars that will be captivated by the hydrogen gas and re-emitted as Lyman-alpha radiation.

Jim Geach, an astronomer and the lead author of the study, which was published in Astrophysical Journal, said that for a long time, the origin of the extended Lyman-alpha light has been controversial. He further said that with the combination of new observations and cutting-edge simulations, they think that they have solved a 15-year-old mystery. He finally concluded that Lyman-alpha blob 1 is the site of formation of a massive elliptical galaxy that will one day be the heart of a giant cluster.


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