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Astronomers Spot Primitive ‘Little Cub’ Galaxy that may Shed Light on Early Universe

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Little Cub galaxy
The Little Cub galaxy - so called because it sits in the Ursa Major or Great Bear constellation. Galaxy (Representational Image). Wikimedia
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  • Gas from the Little Cub is being stripped away by its interaction with NGC 3359, which has up to 10,000 times as many stars as the Little Cub and is similar to our Milky Way
  • The Little Cub and its larger neighbour, a grand design spiral galaxy called NGC 3359
  • By observing this cosmic feast, scientists hope to understand more about how and when gas is lost from smaller galaxies

London, July 4, 2017: Astronomers have spotted a primitive galaxy, dubbed Little Cub, which they believe could reveal more about the chemical signature of the universe just minutes after the Big Bang.

The Little Cub galaxy – so called because it sits in the Ursa Major or Great Bear constellation – also offers the astronomers a rare chance to see galaxy demise as it starts to be consumed by a gigantic neighbouring galaxy.

The Little Cub and its larger neighbour, a grand design spiral galaxy called NGC 3359, are about 200,000 to 300,000 light years apart, and approximately 50 million light years from Earth, according to the study being presented at the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy meeting in Britain on Tuesday.

Gas from the Little Cub is being stripped away by its interaction with NGC 3359, which has up to 10,000 times as many stars as the Little Cub and is similar to our Milky Way.

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By observing this cosmic feast, scientists hope to understand more about how and when gas is lost from smaller galaxies.

We may be witnessing the quenching of a near-pristine galaxy as it makes its first passage about a Milky Way-like galaxy, said lead author Tiffany Hsyu from the University of California Santa Cruz, US.

It is rare for such a tiny galaxy to still contain gas and be forming stars when it is in close proximity to a much larger galaxy so this is a great opportunity to see just how this process works, Hsyu added.

Essentially the larger galaxy is removing the fuel that the Little Cub needs to form stars, which will eventually shut down star formation and lead to the smaller galaxy’s demise, Hsyu explained.

The researchers also hope to gain an insight into the make-up of the very early Universe, by studying the hydrogen and helium atoms that are being illuminated by the small number of very bright stars within the Little Cub.

Since this galaxy is so primitive, it may still preserve the hydrogen and helium atoms that were created minutes after the Big Bang.

We know by studying the chemistry of the Little Cub that it is one of the most primitive objects currently known in our cosmic neighbourhood, said research co-author Ryan Cooke from Durham University in England.

Such galaxies, which have remained dormant for most of their lives, are believed to contain the chemical elements forged a few minutes after the Big Bang, Cooke added. (IANS)

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Astronomers Found Ancient Star Formed By Big Bang

This suggests that it could be as little as one generation removed from the beginning of the universe, the researchers noted

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Astronomers discover ancient star formed by Big Bang, pixabay

A team of astronomers have found what could be one of the universe’s oldest stars, almost entirely made of materials formed by the Big Bang.

Residing in the same part of the Milky Way galaxy as our own solar system, the star is believed to be up to 13.5 billion years old which is evidenced by its extremely low metal content, or metallicity, Xinhua news agency reported.

According to co-author Andrew Casey, it was previously believed that the first stars that formed in the universe could not possibly still exist today.

“The findings are significant because for the first time we have been able to show direct evidence that very ancient, low mass stars do exist, and could survive until the present day without destroying themselves,” Casey said.

Keplar, NASA
According to co-author Andrew Casey, it was previously believed that the first stars that formed in the universe could not possibly still exist today. VOA

The metallicity of stars increases as they are born and die, in a cycle which results in the creation of more and more heavy metals, with the Earth’s sun being around 100,000 generations down that line and holding a metal content roughly equal to 14 Jupiters.

Stars created at the beginning of the universe, however, would have consisted entirely of elements like hydrogen, helium and small amounts of lithium – meaning the extremely low metallicity of the newly discovered star, about the same as the planet Mercury.

This suggests that it could be as little as one generation removed from the beginning of the universe, the researchers noted.

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Up until around 1990, scientists believed that only massive stars could have formed in the early stages of the universe, and could never be observed because they burn through their fuel so quickly and die.

However, the new study has shown that it is possible for low mass stars to last as long as the 13 billion years since the Big Bang — Red Dwarf stars for instance, which have a fraction of the mass of the sun, are thought to live for trillions of years. (IANS)