It sounds like something out of a Stars Wars movie, but scientists are worried and baffled by the fact something is killing galaxies in far off regions of the universe. As reported by Real Clear Science, the galaxy destruction is such a mystery that researchers have created a task force to understand what is happening to cause this destruction.
Astronomers have used the term “killed” to describe when their star formations are shut down. Star formation is a complex and still not completely understood area of science, though scientists know that it depends on where galaxies are located, how they interact with their surroundings, and the intergalactic medium around them. However, the precise details of how the environment can both spur life and dictate death remains unknown.
One well-documented phenomenon, however, is that of galaxy clusters. Per their title, galaxy clusters contain hundreds to thousands of galaxies. With such great mass, the group of galaxies travel at incredibly high speeds, careening through the universe at thousands of miles per second.
In addition, the “plasma” in between galaxies is accordingly heated up to such high temperatures that it emits X-ray light.
Not much can survive in such plasma, meaning the galaxies interact with each other more often. Gas is often expunged in a process called ram pressure stripping. Without gas, no new stars can be created, which causes a sitting duck of a dead galaxy.
In addition, the heat caused from the speed means that gas cannot cool down to become particles used to create star formations or galaxies. The scientific terms for this process are the macabre “strangulation” and “starvation.”
The newest task force hopes to figure out if either of the two reasons above is the reason behind the galaxy destruction, or if there are more causes. Called the Virgo Environment Traced in Carbon Monoxide survey (VERTICO), it will use one of the world’s leading telescopes to investigate how galaxies are being killed off.
The telescope, known as ALMA, consists of connected radio dishes at an altitude of 5,000 meters in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.
The team, lead by Canadians, will particularly look at Virgo clusters. The scientists hope to create high resolution maps of molecular hydrogen gas for 51 galaxies. Hydrogen is often seen as the principle building block in space, and is the most common fuel for star formation.
In other space related news, other scientists are worried about the black hole in the center of our universe getting “hungrier,” claiming “we have never seen anything like this” (via The Inquisitr).