An international team of astronomers, spearheaded by Professor Yoichi Tamura of Nagoya University, the recent have taken one step closer to unlocking the secrets of the universe. Utilizing the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), Professor Tamura’s team has captured high-resolution images of a fledgling galaxy that existed a mere 600 million years after the Big Bang. These groundbreaking images have revealed never-before-seen structures formed through the interplay of dark and emission nebulae – a captivating tapestry where these nebulae coalesce to form a gargantuan cavity reminiscent of a ‘superbubble’.
In 2012, Professor Tamura’s team began their exploration into ultra-distant galaxies with ALMA and achieved a major breakthrough in 2016 by detecting radio waves from oxygen in a record-setting distant galaxy. In 2018, they identified the most distant galaxy ever known by detecting radio waves emitted from oxygen 13.2 billion light-years away, and in 2019 they further refined their discoveries by detecting radio waves emitted by both oxygen and dust in another galaxy located at the same distance.
These findings are paramount for understanding the enigmatic processes associated with the formation of galaxies and the cycles of stellar birth and death. The formation of this superbubble is believed to have been caused by the birth of vibrant stars and the subsequent shockwaves created by supernova explosions. The detection of dust in this early universe, where the cycle of star reincarnation had not yet repeated extensively, was a remarkable finding that marked a major milestone in our understanding of the universe.
After performing intricate observations of the MACS0416_Y1 galaxy, team have uncovered that its core is home to vast dark nebulae – dense clouds of cold dust and gas that obscure starlight. The team’s observations were able to capture the life cycle within these dark nebulae. Stars are born, live and die, giving rise to new stars. By configuring ALMA’s antennas akin to a zoom lens and employing a 28-hour-long exposure, they were able to discern the origins of radio waves emitted by dust and oxygen, depicting how emission and dark nebulae are closely intertwined, each carving out its own space.
The team also found that at the center of the galaxy lay a colossal cavity, spanning approximately 1,000 light-years. This cavity is known as a superbubble and is likely caused by supernova explosions resulting from a frenzied rate of star formation – about 100 times higher than that of the Milky Way. The team also found that within the nebulae, gas moved at an astonishing speed of 200,000 kilometers per hour – suggesting that stars form as massive clusters.