The world’s largest optical telescope has allowed University of Florida astronomers to see new details
about deep space galaxies, finding new clues to explain the evolution of
galaxies like our own.
these new observations, it was believed that galaxies in the young universe
were much denser and compact than they are now, undergoing at some point a
mysterious transformation growing in size and mass. Astronomers around the
world struggled to find an explanation.
a UF-led team has used the Gran Telescopio Canarias, or GTC, to point out the
solution to the mystery: The data gathered by lesser telescopes was not
accurate enough, which led to misinterpretation.
GTC in Spain’s Canary Islands has a primary mirror of 10.4 m, or 27.6 ft, which
allowed the team led by UF graduate student Jesus Martinez and professor Rafael
Guzman, to observe four of these dense galaxies with a level of detail
unachieved so far. They found that the four were six times less massive, on
average, than previously believed, as described in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
takes time for light to travel through the universe. Considering the great
distances the light must travel to get to Earth, looking through larger
telescopes means not only being able to see farther in distance, but also back
in time—in this case 9 billion years ago.
and teammates from Spanish research centers Instituto de Astrofisica de
Canarias and Universidad Complutense de Madrid, concluded that what had been
thought of as super-dense galaxies actually were not so dense and had not undergone
dramatic transformation—a discovery that shows how scientists must always
question previously accepted principles.
scientific tools such as the GTC help bolster this kind of healthy skepticism.
is a 5% partner in the $180 million GTC, which was inaugurated in 2009