Scientists have uncovered evidence that a galactic heat wave 11 billion years ago unleashed such vast quantities of radiation that it changed the entire form of galaxies. Could it happen again?
Researchers discovered a period of time between 11.7 and 11.3 billion years ago when ultraviolet light emitted from quasars caused helium atoms to lose their electrons, resulting in a monumental heat wave throughout the universe.
The intense heat caused detrimental effects to the formation of many dwarf galaxies, stunting their growth for up to 500 million years.
The study highlighted how researchers used the Hubble Space Telescope to come to the conclusion that large quasar activity caused intergaltic helium to more than double in temperature from 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit (around 10,000 degrees Celsius) to a whopping 40,000 degrees Fahrenheith (around 22,000 degrees Celsius).
“In the early universe, this burst of heating, we think, prevented a lot of these low-mass galaxies from forming stars,” said Michael Shull, professor of Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado and head of the study. “This burst of heating goes into the intergalactic helium, heats the gas up, and changes galaxy formation, particularly with dwarf galaxies.”
The report will be featured in the next issue of The Astrophysical Journal, to be released on October 20.