LAWRENCE — University of Kansas astronomer Greg Rudnick is available to speak with reporters about the fresh discovery of a galaxy under construction.
This week, NASA announced the observation of a galaxy in the process of formation. Nicknamed “Sparky,” the compact galaxy features millions of stars coming into existence at blazing speed. The Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, along with the W.M. Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the European Space Agency's Herschel space observatory, made the discovery possible. The findings from were published this week in the journal Nature.
“A very surprising thing that we have found out in the past decade is that there is a substantial population of massive galaxies in the distant universe that have not only stopped forming stars but are also a factor of roughly 100 more dense than nearby galaxies of the same mass,” Rudnick said. “These galaxies are absent in the nearby universe. Astronomers have been struggling to learn how these extremely compact galaxies formed. Some candidates have been found, but none of them have been confirmed until now. The work presented in this Nature paper provides the first galaxy in the distant universe that is forming stars rapidly and has the structure and mass to be the formation event of one of the compact dead galaxies. The significance of this result is that they have unambiguously confirmed the distance and determined the gas motions, which are very fast and can only come from a very compact mass distribution.”
Rudnick’s research focus is the growth of mass in galaxies over cosmic time and how this growth is influenced by galaxy environment. An associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Rudnick previously served as a Leo Goldberg Fellow at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, and a postdoctoral researcher at the Max-Planck-Institute for Astrophysics in Germany.