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Mature galaxies found from when the universe was only 1.6 billion years old

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two old, faroff mature galaxies/Caroline Straatman

After some elusive findings, evidence has finally come in of early Milky Way-size galaxies that are mature, leaving astronomers to wonder what caused them to grow up so quickly. Fifteen years ago, such galaxies were not predicted to even exist.

From ScienceDaily:

The mature galaxies were found at a record-breaking distance of 12 billion light years, seen when the Universe was just 1.6 billion years old. Their existence at such an early time raises new questions about what forced them to grow up so quickly.


“These distant and early massive galaxies are one of the Holy Grails of astronomy,” Director of the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University of Technology, Professor Karl Glazebrook, who was involved in the discovery, said.

“Fifteen years ago they were predicted not to even exist within the cosmological model favoured at the time. In 2004 I wrote a paper on the discovery of such galaxies existing only three billion years after the Big Bang. Now, with improved technology we are pushing back to only 1.6 billion years, which is truly exciting.”

Astronomers used deep images at near-infrared wavelengths to search for galaxies in the early Universe with red colours. These red colours indicate the presence of old stars and a lack of active star formation. Surprisingly, they located 15 galaxies at an average distance of 12 billion light years — only 1.6 billion years after the Big Bang.

These galaxies had already stopped forming stars when the Milky Way was only 12% of its current age.

See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology).

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8 Replies to “Mature galaxies found from when the universe was only 1.6 billion years old

  1. 1
    scordova says:

    Or it means there was no Big Bang. πŸ™‚

  2. 2
    ppolish says:

    1.6. billion years awfully fast for galaxy to mature. Maybe they mean “God Years” not earth years. Steroids? What was the temperature of Universe back then?

  3. 3
    snelldl says:

    Anybody have any idea what the apparent age of those galaxies would be?

  4. 4
    ppolish says:

    Snelldl, today those galaxies are about the same age as Milky Way – 13 odd billion years old. However, they reached maturity very quickly 12 billion years ago. No “boring billion” for those guys:)

    It is hard to imagine what those galaxies would be like today…

  5. 5
    snelldl says:

    I understand that they are the same age as the universe. What I am wondering is, what age should they be in order to be considered mature? That is, how long does it take a galaxy to mature to the state those 15 are in? Obviously longer than 1.6 billion years. I guess I’m just wondering what the models would spit out.

  6. 6
    ppolish says:

    They were already mature 12 billion years ago. Given Big Bang was 13.6 billion years ago, they matured in just over one billion years. “Mature” means “no longer producing stars” if I caught the gist of the discovery.

  7. 7
    ppolish says:

    Galaxies forming & maturing so fast dies not jibe with Astrophysic’s Evo Models. Now they have their own “Cambrian Explosion” to explain:)

  8. 8
    snelldl says:

    Right, so what do the models predict? That’s what I want to know.

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