New information has “come to light” about the Lyman-Alpha Blob, a glowing “blob” in space that has left astronomers speculating about its purpose for more than 15 years.
Scientists now say there are two large galaxies at the center of the blob and each galaxy is creating the equivalent of 100 suns every year, according to a report published by the Astrophysical Journal Wednesday.
Lyman-alpha blobs are made up of hydrogen gas and the rapid star production activity is making the surrounding gas glow. This is what makes the shrouded galaxies appear to look like a giant blob, according to astronomer Jim Geach from the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom.
First, some back story:
Chuck Steidel, an astronomer at the California Institue of Technology in Pasadena, and several of his colleagues first discovered the strange blob when they were observing distant galaxies in the 1990s. Upon further investigation, they discovered that the blobs were large clouds of glowing hydrogen gas.
The blob was named the Lyman-alpha blob after the frequency of ultraviolet light the blobs emitted and because the clouds were, well, blob-like.
“Like the blob from outer space or something like that,” Steidel told NPR.
Steidel and his team eventually discovered that the major blob actually contained two large galaxies. The group discovered their findings when they used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile, UPI reported.
The large clouds are around 10 times the size of the Milky Way Galaxy in diameter. There are also several smaller galaxies surrounding the major light sources. The galaxies, scientists believe, are becoming a galaxy cluster.
As for the major “pair,” scientists say they might merge to become an elliptical galaxy.
“What’s exciting about these blobs is that we are getting a rare glimpse of what’s happening around these young, growing galaxies," author of the study and astronomer Jim Geach said in a statement. "With the combination of new observations and cutting-edge simulations, we think we have solved a 15-year-old mystery: Lyman-alpha Blob-1 is the site of a massive elliptical galaxy that will one day be the heart of a giant cluster. We are seeing a snapshot of the assembly of that galaxy 11.5 billion years ago.”