A team of NASA officials say that they have discovered a rare set of galaxies.
NASA announced late Thursday they have discovered a group of extremely red galaxies that lie almost 13 billion light-years from Earth. Discovered using the Spitzer Space Telescope, these galaxies appear to be physically associated and may be interacting, said officials.
“We’ve had to go to extremes to get the models to match our observations,” said Jiasheng Huang of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Huang is lead author on the paper announcing the find, which was published online by the Astrophysical Journal.
The team of scientists said the discover would serve as a “missing link” in the evolution of the universe.
“Hubble has shown us some of the first protogalaxies that formed, but nothing that looks like this,” Giovanni Fazio study co-author and astronomer with Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in a statement. “In a sense, these galaxies might be a ‘missing link’ in galactic evolution.”
The newfound galaxies are more than 60 times brighter in the infrared than they are at the reddest colors Hubble can detect. Researchers hypothesized that the galaxies may be red from a combination of dust, older stars or extreme distance, factors associated with red-tinted galaxies.
Galaxies can be very red for several reasons. They might be very dusty. They might contain many old, red stars. Or they might be very distant, in which case the expansion of the universe stretches their light to longer wavelengths and hence redder colors (a process known as redshifting). All three reasons seem to apply to the newfound galaxies.
“There’s evidence for others in other regions of the sky. We’ll analyze more Spitzer and Hubble observations to track them down,” said Fazio.