Astronomers have recently found a small blue galaxy about 30 million light-years away nicknamed Little Lion. The discovery could offer clues about the beginning of the universe even though all the analyses were made from Earth.
The official name for the galaxy AGC 198691, also addressed as Lencino or Little Lion, has the lowest level of metals, or heavy chemical elements ever observed in the solar system. This particular qualification for the phenomenon offers an important view as how it reacts to the different elements present in it and their evolution.
“Finding the most metal-poor galaxy ever is exciting since it could help contribute to a quantitative test of the Big Bang,” said John Salzer, Indiana University (IU) professor and co-author of the study published in Astrophysical Journal. “There are relatively few ways to explore conditions at the birth of the universe, but low-metal galaxies are among the most promising.”
The currently accepted model of the start of the universe makes clear predictions about the amount of helium and hydrogen present during the Big Bang, the ratio of these atoms in metal-poor galaxies provides a direct test of the model, according to a press release from the IU.
By analyzing the traces of metals in a galaxy, particularly the one recently found, researchers could able to tell how much evolution and star production the galaxy has gone through and compared it to the more advanced Milky Way.
Researchers based their discovery on spectroscopic observations, which was used to captured the light waves emitted by the galaxy, the data from those observations was published in the study. These kinds of observations allow scientists to view the light emitted by galaxies like a rainbow created when a prism disperses sunlight.
The observations were made by spectrographs on two telescopes in Arizona, the Mayall 4-meter telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory and the Multiple Mirror Telescope at the summit of Mount Hopkins near Tucson, the press release stated. Little Lion was originally discovered by Cornell University’s Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA.
According to graduate student and lead author of the study, Alec Hirschauer, low metal abundance is essentially a sign that very little stellar activity has taken place compared to most galaxies.
Even though Little Lion is far away, is still considered as a member of the “local universe”, a part of the space within 1 billion light-years from Earth and contains several million galaxies, although just a small portion have been found.
Source: Indiana University