Podcaster: Richard Drumm
Title: UNAWE Space Scoop – An Ancient Merry-Go-Round
Organization: 365 Days Of Astronomy
Description: Space scoop, news for children.
There is evidence of rotation in a galaxy which existed just 500 million years after the Big Bang. This is the earliest galaxy we’ve found with possible rotation! This young galaxy rotates more slowly than modern galaxies, but maybe it’s on its way to gaining more speed.
Bio: Richard Drumm is President of the Charlottesville Astronomical Society and President of 3D – Drumm Digital Design, a video production company with clients such as Kodak, Xerox and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. He was an observer with the UVa Parallax Program at McCormick Observatory in 1981 & 1982. He has found that his greatest passion in life is public outreach astronomy and he pursues it at every opportunity.
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This is the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. Today we bring you a new episode in our Space Scoop series. This show is produced in collaboration with Universe Awareness, a program that strives to inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos.
Today’s story is…
An Ancient Merry-Go-Round
Astronomers have found that very old galaxies can spin, too.
Well, they spun when they were very young, that is.
Ummm… OK, let me start that over.
Astronomers have found that very young galaxies can spin, too.
There! That’s better!
We say “old” because the light from that far away is old to us, though that galaxy and the Universe were young at the time.
There is evidence of rotation in a galaxy which existed just 500 million years after the Big Bang.
This is the earliest galaxy we’ve found with possible rotation!
This young galaxy rotates more slowly than modern galaxies, but maybe it’s on its way to gaining more speed.
Findings like this are quite important for astronomers to understand how galaxies develop during their, uh, childhood.
Like our Milky Way, many galaxies in our modern Universe rotate around a core, usually a supermassive black hole.
But when and how do galaxies start to rotate?
Astronomers are interested in these questions because this ‘when’ and ‘how’ affects the environment where stars, planets, heck, even life! – form and evolve.
To find out that this ancient galaxy actually rotates, a team of astronomers led by Tsuyoshi Tokuoka at Waseda University in Tokyo used ALMA.
That’s the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in the Atacama desert of Chile.
They spent two months studying the galaxy, nicknamed JD1 after its name, MACS 1149-JD1.
MACS refers to the MAssive Cluster Survey, a survey of massive X-ray emitting galaxy clusters detected by the German ROSAT X-ray satellite.
JD1 is much smaller than the Milky Way.
While our galaxy is 100,000 light-years across, JD1 is only 3,000.
Only! It’d take 3,000 years traveling at the speed of light to cross it from side to side!
Of course, if you could travel at the speed of light you wouldn’t experience time at all.
Photons of light do this, they are created and destroyed at the same time as far as they could tell.
But I digress…
JD1 also rotates much slower than our galaxy.
JD1’s core rotates at 50 kilometers per second or 31 miles per second, or 111,000 miles an hour, about 3 times faster than a meteor.
The core of our Milky Way rotates at 220 kilometers per second, or 137 miles per second, or almost half a million miles an hour! Wow!
Hey, here’s a cool fact!
With the JWST now working, astronomers will look closer at JD1 to better understand its formation.
They’re particularly interested in examining what they call the decoupled disk scenario, where the emission disk and dynamical discs are separate.
This may be the result of a galactic merger and the resolution of JWST is needed to study the galaxy further and determine if a merger has happened.
JWST’s Guaranteed Time Observation programs targeting this galaxy will resolve the different spatial distributions of the young and mature stellar populations and confirm or revise the various galactic evolution scenarios.
As always, we need more data!
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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