In 1926, famous astronomer Edwin Hubble developed his morphological classification scheme for galaxies. This method divided galaxies into three basic group – Elliptical, Spiral and lenticular – based on their shape.
One of the most widely accepted theories is that galaxies changed by merging, where smaller clouds- bound by mutual gravity – came together, altering the size of a galaxy over time.
However, a new study by an international team of researchers has revealed that galaxies could actually assumed their modern shapes through the formation of new stars within their centers.
The study, titled “Rotating Starburst Cores in Massive Galaxies at z = 2.5“, was recently published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. Led by Ken-ichi Tadaki – a postdoctoral researcher with the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) – the team conducted observations of distant galaxies in order to get a better understanding of galactic metamorphosis.
This involved using ground-based telescopes to study 25 galaxies that were at a distance of about 11 billion light-years from Earth. At this distance, the team was seeing what these galaxies looked like 11 billion years ago, or roughly 3 billion years after the Big Bang. This early epoch coincides with a period of peak galaxy formation in the Universe, when the foundations of most galaxies were being formed. As Dr. Tadaki indicated in a NAOJ press release:
“Massive elliptical galaxies are believed to be formed from collisions of disk galaxies. But, it is uncertain whether all the elliptical galaxies have experienced galaxy collision. There may be an alternative path.”
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