Scientists spot merging galaxies from 13 billion years ago

Scientists have located one of the most distant examples of merging galaxies in results that were published this week.

Researchers in Japan observed a distant source of light known as B14-65666, located in the constellation known as Sextans, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array of telescopes in Chile.

Their data suggested that the object could be a single galaxy forming new stars as the result of a collision in space.

Prior observations with the Hubble Space Telescope had revealed two star clusters in B14-65666.

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An artist’s impression of merging galaxies known as B14-65666 some 13 billion light-years away. 

An artist’s impression of merging galaxies known as B14-65666 some 13 billion light-years away.  (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan)

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Takuya Hashimoto, a postdoctoral researcher at the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and Waseda University, Japan, explained that the signals received from the constellation had to travel 13 billion light-years to reach them.

That means researchers can examine what the galaxy looked like 13 billion years ago, or less 1 billion years after the Big Bang.

“Detection of radio waves from three components in such a distant object clearly demonstrates ALMA’s high capability to investigate the distant universe," Hashimoto said in a press release.

Scientists will continue to use this type of research to explore the origins of our universe.

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“The very early universe seems like a very exciting time to be a galaxy, with lots of violent collision and nothing that looks like the ordered structures we’re used to at later times,” Dan Marrone, associate professor at the University of Arizona, told Gizmodo.