December 4, 2012

New galaxy census highlights importance of starbursts

Astronomers have used ESA's Herschel Space Observatory to identify thousands of previously undetected starburst galaxies - among the most prolific stellar factories in the Universe. Follow-up observations with the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawai'i have provided redshift measurements for almost 800 of these galaxies, which appear to span the past 12 billion years of cosmic history. The study confirms that, although less numerous than 'ordinary' galaxies, these infrared-bright galaxies played an important role in star formation throughout the history of the Universe. This rich data set will also allow future investigations into the physical mechanisms that triggered such intense star formation.

A new census of starburst galaxies across the Universe
A new census of starburst galaxies across the Universe.
Credits: ESA - C. Carreau/C. Casey (University of Hawai'i); COSMOS field: ESA/Herschel/SPIRE/HerMES Key Programme; Hubble images: NASA, ESA

Read the article on ESA web site