Wasteful Galaxies: They Spew Heavy Elements Into ‘Halos’ And Deep Space

Apparently, galaxies are wasteful celestial bodies. At least, that’s the rumor following the release of a new study by the University of Colorado. The study has discovered that wasteful galaxies emit more heavy elements, elements like iron, carbon and oxygen, into their surrounding and into deep space than they keep within themselves. The galaxies, in effect, release more minerals and elements into the universe than they themselves need to build stars, planets, and even life.

“Previously, we thought that these heavier elements would be recycled into future generations of stars and contribute to forming planetary systems and providing the building blocks of life. As it turns out, galaxies aren’t very good at recycling.”

The above statement is courtesy of Benjamin Oppenheimer of the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy at Boulder, Colorado, reports Astronomy.


Be that as it may, the system seems to work.

The reservoir of gas and elements that surround wasteful galaxies is known as the circumgalactic medium (or CGM), and it is believed to be an integral part of how galaxies cycle elements in and out of themselves. The precise mechanisms utilized by galaxies to (at least partially) recycle their CGM is currently unknown. In most galaxies, sizes range from 30 to 100,000 light-years. This measurement seems impressive until one realizes that galaxies often have a CGM that spans a million light-years or even more.

As Astronomy reports, researchers utilized data from their COS (Cosmic Origin Spectrograph) instrument, which cost governments, scientists and astronomers (although not out of their own pockets) over $70 million to develop and build. The COS, which measures the wastefulness of galaxies, is installed for posterity on the Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy wastefulness detector uses UV spectroscopy to study and better understand the evolution of the universe.


According to the research into wasteful galaxies and the origin of their wastefulness, beautiful spiral galaxies, such as the Milky Way, emit a blue color. Other wasteful galaxies of a different formation, like elliptical galaxies (which have limited star formation) are seen as red. Regardless, both types of galaxies are home to (and the creators of) tens of thousands to hundreds of billions of stars, each of which create heavy elements.

After scientists studying potentially wasteful galaxies ran a series of complex computer simulations, they found that galaxies, both the Milky Way and others, are not nearly as efficient as retaining their raw elements as scientists had previously believed.

“The remarkable similarity of the galaxies in our simulations to those targeted by the COS team enables us to interpret the observations with greater confidence.”

According to researchers, newly constructed simulations also clearly indicate to scientists also answer the questions regarding why elliptical galaxies seem to have more oxygen circulating around them than do spiral galaxies.


In addition, the new simulations around the “wasteful galaxies” also seem to unite the opinions of astronomers.

“The CGM of the elliptical galaxies is hotter. The high temperatures, topping over 1 million degrees Kelvin, reduce the fraction of the oxygen that is five times ionized, which is the ion observed by COS.”

According to the study of wasteful galaxies, the temperature of CGM gas in spiral galaxies is much hotter. The wasteful galaxies studies indicate that it is 300,000° Kelvin, or around fifty times hotter than the surface of the Sun..


“It takes massive amounts of energy from exploding supernovae and supermassive black holes to launch all these heavy elements into the CGM. This is a violent and long-lasting process that can take over 10 billion years, which means that in a galaxy like the Milky Way this highly ionized oxygen we’re observing has been there since before the Sun was born.”

What do you think about the wasteful galaxies research? Does it shed new light into the origins and understanding of our existence? Or is wasteful galaxies research just one more shot in the dark that asks more questions than it provides answers?

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