Image of the Day: Starbursts in Distant Galaxies




In galaxies that glow most brightly in the infrared, astronomers suspect that frantic star formation is in progress, in episodes called starbursts. The European Space Agency's Infrared Space Observatory (ISO)  has observed many galaxies which are half as old as the Universe by staring through a window in the dust of our own Milky Way Galaxy, called the Lockman Hole. In nearer galaxies, ISO's astronomers can relate strong infrared emissions to collisions and violent eruptions in galactic cores, which have punctuated the evolution of the galaxies.

The farthest known galaxy observed by ISO is a quasar called BR 1202-0725, dating from a time when the Universe was less than one tenth of its present age. Already it is dusty, indicating that star birth and death had ocurred by this early stage.

"The disks tell us that the system at least made small bodies, so it is likely that it also made planets," said Harm Habing of Leiden University in the Netherlands. "Our statistical study reveals that 50 percent of all young stars have these debris disks. ISO is breaking the ground for projects that will go in search of planets, even Earth-like planets, in the far future."

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