Saturday, February 12, 2011

Strange Astronomy

While the Kepler Exoplanets data have been hogging the Astronomy headlines of late, I wish to speculate (question) about a lesser known recent find, that being that the first stars formed in a much clumpier arrangement than previously expected and/or predicted and/or thought.

No, that wasn't the speculation, that's the Astronomical fact, and I'm not going to speculate as to the "Why?"

My speculation, to be revealed in a couple of paragraphs, has to do with what that actually means, what came after.


Which came first, the black holes in the centers of galaxies, or the galaxies themselves with their black holes forming later?

It would seem to me that given this new information, that the black holes formed first. The reason being that the first stars were drawn together to that by-far greatest of gravity wells, those wells being each other. Where else would they go?

Did they form little proto-galaxies first, thus proving me wrong? Perhaps, but unlikely I think. "The urge to merge" was likely much stronger then than now, as the universe was smaller, so they were closer to each other (in each clump) than stars are today.

The merging may have happened so fast in fact that they formed ridiculously large black holes, and it wouldn't be long before the jets of particles and radiation started streaming from their poles. The jetted material would eventually fall back toward the black hole, but not exactly straight down, and would eventually settle down into the familiar disk formation similar to that we see in galaxies today, except cloudier, and would feed the black hole yet again.

The energy would be immense, and give birth to quasars, or "active galaxies". This period would last almost half the lifetime of the Universe, until 5-6 billion years ago when the quasars themselves would settle down into the more familiar spiral shaped galaxies we see today.

As the first of those galaxies settled down further, they would form that other type of galaxy that are the ellipticals. And I can think of nothing that would stop the old stars in those those ellipticals from falling together to make new quasars and start the process all over again.

Birth. Death. Rebirth. It may not happen to people, but The Universe is a strange yet wonderful place.


Phil Warnell said...

Hi Steve,

I don’t know if you are aware but just recently Amy Reines and colleagues at the University of Virginia and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory have confirmed the presence of a supermassive black hole (approx. one million solar masses) at the centre of a dwarf galaxy only 30 million light years away. This gives further weight to the hypothesis that black holes formed first in the early stages of the universe which became the attractive centres for matter accumulation to then later form galaxies.

Further it would seem that the size of the initial black hole relates to how quickly it able to gather (captures) interstellar matter and factors into the delay involved in a galaxies initial star formation. Nature published the related paper on February 2nd of this year. Anyway whatever it turns out to be all of this would have shocked one of the first to have contemplated the gravity of the situation;-)

“This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centres of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed stars is of the same nature with the light of the sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems: and lest the systems of the fixed stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other mutually, he hath placed those systems at immense distances one from another.”

Issac Newton, “Principia Mathematica”[1687]



Steven Colyer said...

Yeah? Thanks, Phil. 30 Mly isn't that far away. I must admit I'm stepping outside the area of my expertise although not my interest. The stars and galaxies have always fascinated me. Later and currently, the filaments and voids of the Universe, being the biggest things there are. So I hope you forgive this blend of mine of Aristotelian Logic, Manifold Topology, and Newtonian Gravity. I'm probably wrong. The evolution of galaxies is neat yet somewhat useless in a practical way, as in our uber-short lifespans the whole Universe seems like a snapshot, yet these galaxy suckers appear as super active "places". I was going to say "things", but what is a galaxy except a "collection" of stars and gas orbiting a big massive black hole?

It seems given there are giant black holes at the center of all spiral galaxies (our own having a rather puny one), in which case everything in the Universe seems a bit player to these fundamental objects. I have crazier astrophysical ideas than this, but it's time to turn around to my Math cycle and we'll leave this one hanging for the time being.

Thanks for quoting Newton, one can't ever get enough of Old Isaac. But today is Euler day (and I don't mean Edmonton)! (Currently reading Euler's Gem).

Jérôme CHAUVET said...

The answer to the egg-or-hen-first problem lies somehow within the nest of logic. Neither the egg nor the hen came first : they both originated out of the same entity (bacteria, to say it straightforwardly) which could divide itself into two identitical sister entities... Then, dissymetry occured, so the one became the egg, the other the hen. A hen spawning an egg can be then seen as a very-very-very dissymetric division of the hen.

May be the same for black holes...


Steven Colyer said...

I think so, at least I think it's possible. You're trying to answer the "why?" question, whereas as an engineer the more immediate question to me is answering the "how?"

In that regard I long ago concluded if one assumes the Theory of Evolution is true, as I do, that the egg came first. The rooster and hen who contributed to said egg were 99.99999 infinite nines percent rooster and hen, but not quite. A slight mutation occurred, perhaps by walking by or sleeping on uranium ore during conception? I do not have an answer to that question, but that would be my guess.

Jérôme CHAUVET said...

Thus I should address the How issue... Well, if black holes are anchors for galaxies in the wall of space-time, then they surely are formed along with galaxies during their formation... And just like pictures hanged up on walls with a nail, the hole is still in the wall after the frame has fallen down ;)