Faint Blue Little Lion Galaxy Could Shed Light On Big Bang

Posted: May 13 2016, 8:53am CDT | by , Updated: May 13 2016, 9:35am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Small Blue Little Lion Galaxy Shed Light on Big Bang and Birth of the Earth
An image of the galaxy AGC 198691 (nicknamed Leoncino, or "little lion") taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. | Photo by NASA; A. Hirschauer & J. Salzer, Indiana University; J. Cannon, Macalester College; and K. McQuinn, University of Texas
  • Tiny Blue Galaxy contains Few Heavy Metals and lends New Clues about Big Bang and Birth of the Earth

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A tiny blue galaxy has been discovered which contains few heavy metals (as measured by spectroscopy). It lends us clues about the origins of the universe or the big bang.

A hardly visible blue galaxy that is small in size has been detected by the astronomers’ telescopes. It is approximately 30 million light years away from the earth. Located in Leo Minor, it can lend vital clues as to the origins of the universe we are a part of.

This galaxy has earned the moniker “Leoncino” or “little lion”. Astronomers at Indiana University found that Leoncino contains the smallest deposits of heavy metals ever seen in the cosmos.

The study regarding this find was published in the Astrophysical Journal recently.

Alec S. Hirschauer, a graduate student in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Astronomy, is the lead author on the paper. Other IU authors on the paper are professor John J. Salzer and associate professor Katherine L. Rhode in the Department of Astronomy.

This discovery is of seminal importance. It lays bare the conditions that prevailed at the time of the big bang. While finding out more about the conditions around the time the universe formed is a difficult proposal, this galaxy may be the key to such a dream coming true.

"Finding the most metal-poor galaxy ever is exciting since it could help contribute to a quantitative test of the Big Bang," Salzer said. "There are relatively few ways to explore conditions at the birth of the universe, but low-metal galaxies are among the most promising."

That is because the chemical makeup of those galaxies low in heavy metals is close to the situation prevalent at the early universe’s inception. This is indeed cause for excitement.

All elements other than helium or hydrogen are considered metals in the field of astronomy. In order to find low metal galaxies, astronomers have to focus their telescopes on the far pavilions of space. At least, our own Milky Way galaxy is hardly a suitable candidate for study in this regard.

Low metal occurrence means that the galaxy has not had much stellar generation taking place in its context. Leoncino is a part of the locality though. It is a billion light years away from our home planet. Millions of galaxies exist in its domain.

In 2005 another galaxy was named the one containing the lowest heavy metals. Yet today Leoncino has surpassed it and it contains 29% less heavy metals than this erstwhile galaxy.

Spectroscopy is responsible for looking into the chemical makeup of the galaxies. The light coming in from them is analyzed and then interpreted to give the profile in chemistry they possess. It is a procedure related to prismatic operations that are in turn a part of the science of optics.

While a picture may be worth a thousand words, a spectrum analysis is worth a thousand pictures, or so the saying goes. The “little lion” will lend further clues regarding the origins of our universe that will continue to shock and surprise us well into the future.

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