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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
  • 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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More about Big Bang? China to set up World’s Highest Altitude Gravitational Wave Telescope in Tibet

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activist in China
In China, Pixabay

Lhasa, Jan 7, 2017: China is working to set up the world’s highest altitude gravitational wave telescopes in Tibet Autonomous Region to detect the faintest echoes resonating from the universe, which may reveal more about the Big Bang.

Construction has started for the first telescope, code-named Ngari No.1, 30 km south of Shiquanhe town in Ngari Prefecture, said Yao Yongqiang, chief researcher with the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xinhua news agency reported.

The telescope, located 5,250 meters above sea level, will detect and gather precise data on primordial gravitational waves in the Northern Hemisphere.

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It is expected to be operational by 2021.

Yao said the second phase involves a series of telescopes, code-named Ngari No. 2, to be located about 6,000 meters above sea level. He did not give a time frame for construction of Ngari No. 2.

The budget for the two-phase Ngari gravitational wave observatory is an estimated 130 million yuan ($18.8 million). The project was initiated by the Institute of High Energy Physics, National Astronomical Observatories, and Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology, among others.

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Ngari, with its high altitude, clear sky, and minimal human activity, is said to be one of the world’s best spots to detect tiny twists in cosmic light.

Yao said the Ngari observatory will be among the world’s top primordial gravitational wave observation bases, alongside the South Pole Telescope and the facility in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

Gravitational waves were first proposed by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity 100 years ago, but it wasn’t until 2016 that scientists with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory announced proof of the waves’ existence, spurring fresh research interest among the world’s scientists.

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China has announced its own gravitational wave research plans, which include the launch of satellites and setting up FAST, a 500-meter aperture spherical radio telescope in southwest China’s Guizhou Province. (IANS)