Telescope finds space blobs are pubescent galaxies

This 2009 handout image provided by NASA is a composite image from a number of telescopes, including NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, which shows a space blob in both optical and infrared light. The blob is the yellow mass of gas. Inside it is an adolescent galaxy in white. The red spots are galaxies seen in the infrared spectrum. (AP Photo/ Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/IoA, S.Chapman et al.; Lyman-alpha Optical: NAOJ/Subaru/Tohoku Univ., T.Hayashino et al.; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Durham Univ., J. Geach et al.)

Mysterious space blobs aren't infant galaxies as astronomers once thought. Scientists say they mostly consist of galaxies going through puberty, all hot and bothered. A new study using NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory and other space and ground telescopes comes up with an explanation for these high-energy glowing blobs that have been observed for about a decade.

Astronomers looked at 29 of these gaseous blobs in one distant area of the universe, dating back to more than 11 billion years ago.

One theory was that they were young galaxies cooling off. But the new research says they are hot and chaotic with gas halos, growing supermassive black holes and about to stabilize. The blobs are the adolescent galaxies and the hydrogen gas, leftover from their creation.

Study lead author James Geach of Durham University in England said in an e-mail that the reason chaos is occurring in the blobs "is due to the violent processes occurring in the galaxies, black hole growth, starbursts, mergers. They're having a final 'tantrum' before they're done growing and then 'passively' evolve to the present day.

"These could be the signal of galaxies coming of age," Geach said later in a telephone news conference.

The research published this month in the Astrophysical Journal "is very exciting" and emphasizes the importance of black holes in the evolutions of galaxies, said Baron Martin Rees, England's royal astronomer who was not involved in the research.

The growth of the interior black holes are related to the growth of the galaxies.

But these "blobs" are special cases. It is unlikely that our Milky Way galaxy went through this process billions of years ago, Rees said. The Milky Way is too small. The black holes in the middle of the galaxies that are part of these blobs are at least 300 times more massive than the black hole inside our galaxy, he said.

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