Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hubble confirms that galaxies are the ultimate recyclers

Recycling immense volumes of hydrogen gas and heavy elements allows galaxies to build generations of stars stretching over billions of years.
By STScl, Baltimore, Maryland Published: November 18, 2011
Distant quasars serve as distant lighthouse beacons that shine through the gas-rich "fog" of hot plasma encircling galaxies. At ultraviolet wavelengths, Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) is sensitive to absorption from many ionized heavy elements, such as nitrogen, oxygen, and neon. COS's high sensitivity allows many galaxies that happen to lie in front of the much more distant quasars to be studied. The ionized heavy elements serve as proxies for estimating how much mass is in a galaxy's halo. NASA/ESA/A. Feild (STScI)

New observations by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope are expanding astronomers’ understanding of the ways in which galaxies continuously recycle immense volumes of hydrogen gas and heavy elements. This process allows galaxies to build successive generations of stars stretching over billions of years.

This ongoing recycling keeps some galaxies from emptying their “fuel tanks” and stretches their star-forming to more than 10 billion years.



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