Scientists from WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii discovered that star factories, or galaxies that produce stars, are major polluters of the universe. That means they are also similar to the factories here on Earth, excreting dirty gases into the environment.
Their analysis of the Markarian (Mrk) 1486 galaxy, which is about 500 light-years away from Erath, confirmed that the gas that flows in is cleaner than the gas that flows out from these star-forming galaxies.
How Star-Forming Galaxies Produce New Generation of Stars
EarthSky reported that a consortium of international researchers led a study on how star-forming galaxies could significantly pollute the cosmos. On Monday, August 30, astronomers announced that these galaxies pulled in hydrogen and helium gas to make new stars and convert them into complex elements like carbon, oxygen, and iron.
Then, these star factories release this gas into intergalactic space, usually via a supernova. The news outlet quoted the astronomers who wrote in their study: "What flows into a galaxy is a lot cleaner than what flows out."
In their study, titled "The Duvet Survey: Direct Te-Based Metallicity Mapping of Metal-Enriched Outflows and Metal-Poor Inflows in Markarian 1486," published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, researchers wrote that they used the equipment called the Keck Cosmic Web Imager to focus on Mrk 1486 galaxy.
They described how atoms flood galaxies as accretion, and the eventual expulsion of atoms in a process called outflow. Both accretion and outflow of atoms in galaxies are important as it dictates their mass, size, and growth. This is the first study to confirm the full galactic cycle of another galaxy aside from the Milky Way.
Mrk 1486 Under Study
Mrk 1486 lies 500 light-years away and lies edge-on in Earth, allowing astronomers to get a clear view of the disk galaxy. According to UPI's report, the team found a clear structure of gas entering and exiting the galactic disk.
Alex Cameron, one of the study authors, described what they saw as a spinning frisbee where cleaner gas enters from the cosmos outside and then forms new stars that later on explode and push the dirty gas out, polluting the cosmos.
They noted that the universe once started with few elements. But the new generation of stars made by star-forming galaxies has produced new elements. The Mrk 1486 and other star factories convert the simple atoms that enter them into complex atoms and release them as exhaust.
The team noted that many of the elements identified in the Periodic Table, which are essential to life on Earth, were produced by nuclear fusion deep in the core of a star. Supernova, the explosion of an old star, releases gas, dust, and new elements into the universe and becomes incorporated into asteroids, planets, and other stars.
Researchers said their study puts science one step forward in understanding how and why galaxies look the way they do and how long the Milky Way will last.
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