Astronomers have used the most powerful telescope ever built to identify a massive, densely packed galaxy 25 million light-years away.
Known as GS-9209, researchers say the galaxy formed about 600 to 800 million years after the Big Bang and is the oldest of its kind found.
Scientists led by experts from the University of Edinburgh used the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to reveal the properties of a galaxy named GS-9209 for the first time.
“The James Webb Space Telescope has already demonstrated that galaxies were larger and predating during the first billion years of cosmic history,” said lead researcher Dr Adam Carnal, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy.
“This work gives us our first detailed look at the properties of these early galaxies, detailing the history of GS-9209, which went on to form as many stars as our Milky Way in just 800 million years after the Big Bang.” was successful.
“The fact that we also see a very massive black hole in this galaxy was a big surprise, and lends a lot of weight to the idea that these black holes shut down star formation in early galaxies. “
The researchers found that despite being about 10 times smaller than the Milky Way, GS-9209 contains about the same number of stars as our own Milky Way.
Their combined mass is about 40 billion times the mass of our Sun, according to the study, and they formed rapidly before star formation stopped in GS-9209.
GS-9209 is the earliest known example of a galaxy that is no longer forming stars – known as a quiet galaxy.
When researchers observed it 1.25 billion years after the Big Bang, no stars had formed in the galaxy for about half a billion years.
The study also suggests that GS-9209 has a supermassive black hole at its center.
This is five times larger than what astronomers expected in a galaxy with a number of stars.
Astronomers say the discovery could explain why GS-9209 stopped forming new stars.
When supermassive black holes grow, they release enormous amounts of high-energy radiation, which can heat up and push gas out of galaxies.
According to the researchers, this could have stopped star formation in GS-9209, as stars form when particles of dust and gas inside galaxies collapse under their own weight.
GS-9209 was first discovered in 2004 by Edinburgh PhD student Karina Caputi, supervised at the time by Professors Jim Dunlop and Ross McClure in the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy.
The research, published in the journal Nature, was supported by the Leverhulme Trust, the Science and Technology Facilities Council and UK Research and Innovation.