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article imageOp-Ed: Hubble Ultra Deep Field finds earliest known galaxies

By Paul Wallis     Sep 9, 2007 in Science
They’re small, they’re compact, and they look like tadpoles. There’s another peculiar thing about them: no infrared spectrum. According to the astronomers, that means no previous galaxies. It also means a lot of questions, and opinions.
The image comes from ancient galaxies which supposedly formed less than a billion years after the Big Bang. The Hubble/Spitzer article refers to them as “Lego building block galaxies”, which sort of downplays the fact that these microscopic little things are the ancestors of the galactic giants of the present.
There are a few unmistakable signs of mergers. The extended arcs of stars are a characteristic of galaxies interacting. However, they’re not spirals or elliptical galaxies. Perhaps their internal forces weren’t strong enough to generate the hurricane effect of the big spirals like the Milky Way and Andromeda.
It’s quite a thought, though, that these things could be the originals. Apparently the micro galaxies were expected by the current theories of galactic evolution. However, I can see a couple of questions which Messrs. Einstein and Newton might like answered:
1. The ancient universe is a very different place, relatively sedate, compared to ours.
2. Somehow, it generated the present, high energy universe of the present.
3. The titanic galaxies of the current era had to be formed by available mass and energies.
4. Hubble Deep Field, which is more or less the historic picture, shows something much more like the modern galaxies and their dynamics.
5. There’s a gap. Where’s the intermediate phase, and the lineage of matter and energy to form the Deep Field scenario, from the micro-galactic period?
With all due respect to the “missing mass of the universe” and the dark matter enthusiasts, matter of any description can’t be the whole story. Energy has to be applied, too, however you look at it. These little galaxies would need to have created a lot of energy, to be the origin of the existing high mass/high energy universe.
The problem is that the ancient universe in which these galaxies existed was a very low energy place. They’re so low power they don’t even seem to be able to rotate. Put a thousand of them together, and you might get one Milky Way. There’s no infrared spectrum, so it’s a cold sort of universe. Heat does tend to generate energy, so where is it? It obviously did warm up quite a bit, but how?
“Conservation of energy” poses a problem. You can’t lose energy you don’t have. Nor can it “just happen”. Looking at the gigantic amounts of energy, and hyper-reactive galactic phenomena of the modern universe, “no heat” doesn’t explain much.
The stars in the early galaxies just burned hydrogen. Nothing fancy. No heavy exotic elements, nothing more complex than helium. The vast supply of complex molecules with which the universe is now saturated didn’t exist.
Bit of a leap from that to the present, isn’t it?
A few opinions:
1. The early galaxies were enough to create versions of modern galaxies, centrifuges for heavier elements and modern type stellar and galactic behavior. In effect they became generators, adding energy to the universe.
2. The modern universe is consistently showing the release of huge amounts of energy from things like novae, supernovae, colliding galaxies, generating more energy. The antithesis of entropy, in effect. “Heat death” doesn’t seem exactly prevalent. (That idea may be entirely wrong, if a comparative fridge, full of nano-galaxies with a billionth or less of the heat of existing galaxies, went on to create this one.)
3. Secondary processes like black holes are showing more mass than millions, perhaps billions, of these early galaxies could have possessed.
4. Basic physics suggests that “missing mass” doesn’t mean a damn thing without assessing energies as well. Which also means the origin of those energies has to be identified.
5. If galactic evolution is generating more energies, and therefore more mass and potential for fusion and atomic structures to be created, it makes more sense than not having a clear lineage of development for the entire Table of Elements and related compounds.
6. Some of the modern versions of the little galaxies are very active. The Lesser Magellanic Cloud is currently putting on quite a fireworks display, and a lot of stellar formation, and energy production. It’s bigger than they were, but it’s an amorphous collection of stars like they were, and it shows a lot of internal dynamics.
I wouldn’t rule out for a second the probability that the precursors to the ancient galaxies will show some more processes which explain the history of the universe. One of the fundamental principles of the Big Bang is that the original material that went “Bang” was a thing called “proto matter”. Pre atomic, perhaps pre-subatomic, material.
It might be that this material, being so comparatively low in energy, relative to a quark or some other huge thing, didn’t actually make much of a Bang. In which case, the original universe might have been a much less energy-intensive place than we thought. The absence of an infrared spectrum a billion years later, and after the formation of recognizable galaxies, raises quite a few questions. “No heat” at that point means our ideas about universal thermodynamics might need some more information.
If that’s the case, and these tiny, ancient, galaxies were the beginning of the process that created the uncountable swarms of spirals, ellipses, and variants we now see, we have a lot to learn.
Just one other thing: All of this happened in an expanding universe, according to theory. We are currently witnessing "expansion" involving multiple galactic collisions. Galaxies are traveling in all directions, at all angles to each other.
The current 3D schematic for the universe doesn't look like a "Bang" so much as a lot of inter-reacting threads with no sense of direction.
It may have been a good theory about ancient history, but it's obviously not the story now, and any theory about the development of the universe has to relate meaningfully to galactic evolution. It's pretty clear that space and galaxies have been operating on other dynamics.
If the weaves and twists of intergalactic space are any indication, there's more to it than following the shrapnel from the Big Bang around. Modern galactic structures evolve without any apparent reference to a supposed "expansion", and the space itself is far more complex.
This is more like playing squash with a machine gun firing at different angles than an orderly expansion.
I can see a mass migration back to the drawing board.
More about Hubble, Ultra deep field, Galactic evolution
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