A giant galaxy 12 billion years old suddenly died and scientists do not understand why

The headlines of many world media have been full of messages for many days about the mysterious death of a giant galaxy that puzzled astronomers. The galaxy known as XMM-2599 suddenly went out, which confused scientists. Researchers estimate the age of this giant monster at 12 billion years. This means that when the universe was one billion years old, a large number of stars formed in the galaxy. However, after eight million years, the process of star formation in the galaxy suddenly stopped. As the researchers note in their work, for a galaxy whose mass of stars exceeded the mass of more than 300 billion suns, this is very unusual. The study is published in The Astrophysical Journal.



A party that suddenly ended

At the peak of its development, the monster galaxy XMM-2599 gave birth to more than 1000 solar masses per year. For comparison, about one new star is formed in the Milky Way per year. An international team of astronomers led by scientists from the University of California at Riverside was able to make detailed measurements and calculate distance using powerful spectroscopic observation equipment located at the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii. According to a press release from a study at the University of California, Gillian Wilson, a professor of physics and astronomy, believes that the existence of ultra-massive galaxies is difficult for numerical models.

It is believed that stars in young massive galaxies, such as XMM-2599, should have ceased to form when the age of galaxies reached about three billion years. However, instead, at just 1.8 billion years old, star formation processes began in the XMM-2599. Researchers note that the main mystery of this super-giant galaxy is that it no longer forms stars. At some point, the KhMM-2599 was an ideal place for the birth of new stars, but then something happened. This discovery contradicts scientists’ knowledge of how galaxies form.

This set of images shows the possible evolution of the XMM-2599 from a massive dusty galaxy forming stars (left), to an inactive red galaxy (center) and then, possibly, turning into a galaxy with bright clusters (right)

Some astronomers suggest that star formation in massive galaxies may stop due to the outflow of gas and dust from a supermassive black hole in the center. But to make this possible, the black hole in the center of the galaxy must not only be of incredible size, but form in a very short period of time – as you know, black holes take time to grow. One way or another, the researchers hope that further observations with the Atacama large telescope in Chile will shed light on the secret of the XMM-2599. Researchers also intend to use the James Webb telescope, which will be launched in 2021.

Where did life on Earth come from?

Leading authors of the study believe that the study of galaxies gradually brings us closer to the answer to the question of how all the galaxies were here and how life appeared. The process of the origin of life on our planet is still a mystery. However, research results are gradually emerging that shed light on the basic chemical elements necessary for the origin of life. So, phosphorus is found in all living things on Earth. Recently, scientists tracked phosphorus in the solar system, studying the ways of its getting on our planet. So scientists managed to find out exactly how molecules containing phosphorus are formed.