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first galaxíes. Researchers studyíng ímages from past few years, together wíth hís colleagues
the Hubble Space Telescope have díscovered the Michael L. Norman of the Universíty of Cal-
breathtakíng díversíty of the galaxíes that sur- ifornia, San Diego, and Greg L. Bryan of Oxford
round us today-from gíant pínwheels blazíng Uníversity, Abel has created supercomputer sím-
wíth the blue líght of newborn stars, to mís- ulatíons that show how stars were formed from
shapen footballs glowíng with the ruddy hue of these gases.
stars bom bíllíons of years ago, to tattered gal- The first step, according to the simulations,
axies trailing long streamers of stars tom out by was when gravity gathered gases into diffuse
collísíons wíth íntruder galaxies. clouds. As the gases cooled, they coalesced at the
Less than a century ago astronomers knew center of each cloud ínto a clump no larger than
only about our own galaxy, the Mí1ky Way, whích our sun. The clump collapsed further, whíle sur-
they believed held about 100 million stars. Then rounding gas piled on top of it. In this way ít
observers díscovered that some of the fuzzy blobs grew into a behemoth about 100 times the mass
ín the sky weren't in our own galaxy, but were of the sun. Finally, several million years after the
galaxies ín theír own right-collectíons of stars, entire process began, the intense compression
gas, and dust bound together by gravíty. Today forged a full-fledged star-and there was light.
we know that the Mí1ky Way contaíns more than Elsewhere the same star-forming process had
100 billíon stars and that there are some 100 bil- begun ín other gas clouds that Abel refers to as
lion galaxies ín the uníverse, each harboring an microgalaxies-miniature, single-starred ver-
enormous number of stars. sions of today's galaxies. Soon beacons of light
Our víew of the uníverse ís changíng com- from massíve stars permeated the darkness.
pletely, says cosmologíst Carlos Frenk of the Uní- These stars burned brightly and then fizzled
versíty of Durham ín England, and it's largely after only a few million years, dying ín títaníc
because of our new understandíng of galaxy for- explosions called supemovae. During the bríef
mation: "It's no exaggeratíon to say that we're time these first stars reigned, however, they
goíng through a períod of change analogous to wrought changes ín the universe that had a pro-
the Copernican revolution." found effect on future galaxy formation. They
heated surrounding gases and bombarded them
NE OF THE NEW cosmologists, Tom wíth ultraviolet light. And when they exploded,

O Abel of Pennsylvania State Univer-

sity, thinks he has figured out how
the first star was bom. One afternoon
last April he sat by a hotel pool ín Cozumel,
Mexico, oblivious to the squawkíng blackbirds
the stars seeded the universe, and the next gen-
eration of stats, with the first supply of heavy
elements, including the oxygen we breathe.
The explosive demise of these stars may have
left behind dense cinders, the first black holes
and the whir of the poolsíde blender kept busy in the universe. Moreover, the supernova
making pifia coladas. He was staring intently explosions may have been accompanied by

The concept of dark matter has been around

at images on his laptop computer-images flashes of energetíc radiation known as gamma-
depicting how star formation could have hap- ray bursts that are billíons of tímes brighter than
penedo In a few minutes he would go back the sun. If so, some of the gamma-ray bursts that
inside the hotel to share the images with his col- have already been detected may actually have
leagues at one of the largest meetings ever come from the first stars.
devoted to the origin of galaxies. "It would be the most wonderful thing," said
The first star was bom about 14 billion years Abel, "if we were so lucky that the first stars that
ago, Abel believes, in a universe that was more formed were also the brightest."
mysteríous but also far sim pie r than our own. Abel's presentation in Cozumel was a success.
Smaller and denser than today, the uníverse was Scíentists consider his simulations the most con-
pitch-black and contained mostly hydrogen and vincing scenarío yet for how stars were born,
heliurn with a smattering of lithium. During the The simulations are based on a mind-blowing


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COSMIC REVELATION, a photographic negative of the Andromeda galaxy

taken in 1923 by astronomer Edwin Hubble became the first proof that
galaxies other than the Milky Way existed. The triumphant ''VAR!'' marked
a star of variable brightness, valuable as a measuring tool to show that
Andromeda resided far beyond our home galaxy.

ecades .... No one wanted to believe

"crazy Fritz" was right.
tome kind of mystery material, which for decades, but cosmologists were slow to
••••••••• seen and has come to be known as dark
~ oCoÇ embrace it. That might have been because one
outweighs all the visible material in the of the first people to suggest it was a brilliant
~.-,.,r<;e by at least nine to one. Galaxies are but abrasive genius named Fritz Zwicky, bom
. bright flecks on a sea of dark matter. in 1898. Zwicky's personality didn't encourage
ut the extra tug provided by dark matter, a fan club. He once called his colleagues at the
~~lOmers say,there wouldn't be enough grav- Mount Wilson Observatory"spherical bastards,"
ull material into galaxy-size clumps or because, he said, they were bastards anyway you
- rm the first star. looked at them. ln 1933 Zwicky turried his
concept of dark matter has been around attention to a nearby (Continued on page 16)


"lt would be the most wonderful thing," sai
cluster of galaxies, the Coma cluster, and real- and cold spots in space. This supported the idea
ized it shouldn't existo Individual galaxies in that the seeds of galaxy formation-the pri-
Coma were zipping around so fast that the grav- mordiallumps in the early universe created by
ity exerted by the visible parts of the cluster was dark matter-Ieft tiny temperature variations
toa puny to keep Coma intact. But Zwicky had in the cosmic microwave background, now
a solution. He proposed that all the visible cooled to a frigid 2.73 degrees above absolute
material in the cluster was a mere fillip. The rest, zero. Famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking
which he could not see, he dubbed dark matter. pronounced the finding the "discovery of the
No one wanted to believe "crazy Fritz" was right century, if not of alI time."
Decades later, resistance to Zwicky's ideas
began to fade when astronomers found them- m ~I.. HUBBLE et the stage for today's
selves invoking dark matter to explain a ho t studies of galaxy formation when he dis-
of puzzles. In 1973 Princeton cosmologists [im covered tbat the Milky Way was not alone.
Peebles and Ierry Ostriker said the mystery In the predawn hours of October 6,1923,
material was necessary to keep spiral galaxies, at the Iount t ilson Observatory in California,
including our own Milky Way, from falling apart. he photographed a fuzzy, spiral-shaped clump of
A few years later, Vera Rubin of the Carnegie stars known as M31, or Andromeda, which most
Institution ofWashington concluded that spiral astronomers assumed was part of the Milky Way.
galaxies she and her colleagues had examined He soon realized that within the clump he had
had to be embedded in a halo of dark matter. found a tiny jewel: a star known as a Cepheid vari-
That was the only way to explain, she said, why able. This type of star has a wonderful property:
stars at the outer edge of the spiral galaxies Its brightness waxes and wanes like clockwork,
moved no more slowly than stars at the core. and the longer it takes to vary, the greater the star's
Dark matter, moreover, answered a key riddle intrinsic brightness. That means the star can be
of galaxy formation: how the universe changed used to measure cosmic distances. By comparing
from a smooth, hot soup of particles into a jum- the true brightness of the Cepheid in M31 with
ble of galaxies and galaxy clusters. There had to its brightness as it appears in the sky, Hubble
be some lumps in the first place. By itself, ordi- was able to determine the distance between Earth
nary matter-protons, electrons, and neutrons-- and the star.
couldn't provide those lumps. There wasn't He discovered that the star and the cloud, or
enough of it, and it couldn't begin clumping nebula, in which it resided were a million light-
until the universe had cooled. Dark matter, by years away-three times the estimated diameter
contrast, was plentiful and alI but impervious to of the entire universe! Clearly this clump of stars
every force but gravity. It could coalesce almost resided far beyond the confines of the Milky
immediately after the universe's birth, giving Way. But if Andromeda was a separate galaxy,
ordinary matter a foothold to form galaxies, even then maybe many of the other nebulae in the
as cosmic expansion tried to pull them apart. sky were galaxies as well. The known universe
Evidence backing up the lumpy soup theory suddenly ballooned in size.
carne in 1992, when a NASA satellite called the Hubble soon recognized that galaxies come in
Cosmic Background Explorer detected tiny hot three varieties. Ellipticals, which converted most


el, "if we were so lucky that the first
stars that formed were also the brightest."
of their gas into stars long ago, resemble distorted THE "BOTTOM UP" model of galaxy building
footballs. Spiral galaxies, induding our own (sequence above) shows how gas (red) and new
MilkyWay,account for two-thirds of the known
stars (white) came together to form small gal-
alaxiesin the universe. These galaxieshave cen-
tral bulges of old stars, just like an elliptical, but axies that kept merging and growing. The last
their cores are surrounded by disks containing image shows the universe at middle age about
lender, spiral arms still aglow with newborn seven billion years ago when huge galaxies
stars. Our nearest spiral neighbor, Andromeda,
(yellow) spun inside dark matter halos (green).
resembles a Frisbee with a fried egg at its cen-
ter. Finally, irregular galaxies are the plodders, but aiso growing bigger. The most popular
apparently making stars at the same slow rate version of the dark matter theory says that gal-
ever since they were bom. axies began small and grew over time through
This diversity of galaxiesis rooted in violence, collisions and slow accumulation of material
according to Julio Navarro of the University from their surroundings.
of Victoria in British Columbia. Like Abel, And these collisions aren't just things of the
_ avarro relies on computer simulations to study past, Navarro notes. Witness the Antennae gal-
alaxy evolution, but his work focuses on gal- axies, two galaxies caught in a cosmic tussle 63
axieslater in their life cydes, when they are prone million light-years frorn Earth. Their mutual
o smash into each other and are chock-full of gravity has pulled out two long streamers of
ars. Recent studies by Navarro and Matthias luminous matter that resemble the antennae
teinmetz of the Astrophysical Institute Pots- of a cockroach. Closer to home, the Androm-
dam in Germany depict how collisions could eda galaxy, now hurtling toward us at 300,000
have altered the appearance of a single galaxy as miles an hour, will merge with the Milky Way
. made its way through some 12billion years of in several billion years, theorists predict.
cosmic history. It wasn't the orderly shapes of mature galaxies
The first galaxy was a disk, Navarro believes, but the messy shapes of baby galaxies that cap-
consequence of the object's rapid rotation tured the imagination of astrorÍomer Chuck
and the pull of gravity. As this disk repeatedly Steidel at the Califomia Institute ofTechnology.
ran into and fused with other baby galaxies,the Ris work has led to the discovery of more than
orbits of its stars became scrambled. The bat- 2,000 early galaxies-sometimes at a rate of a
rered disk puffed into a swirling, sparkly ball hundred a night-providing important data for
f gas and stars-an elliptical galaxy. Then, as theorists like Abel and Navarro. And it ali began
e galaxy slowly dragged in streamers of gas, with a trek to a remote mountaintop in Hawaii.
~ e ball became the aging centerpiece of a As Steidel and three of his dosest colleagues
igger disk with spiral arms. Another collision drove slowly up the narrow, bumpy road to
erased that structure and created a larger ball. the l3,796-foot summit of Mauna Kea, they
ith each collision the galaxy altered its shape, knew this was their chance to crack open the
, a lump of day constantly being resculpted, secrets of the early (Continued on page 22)

universe. If the kies remained clear, they were
about to ob erve the heavens with the largest
vi ible-light telescope in the world, the Keck,
It was eptember 30, 1995, and Steidel, at
onlv 3_, hoped to accomplish what no one had
ever done--detect in wholesale numbers galax-
i 50 di tant that the light they emitted more
than 12 billion years ago was only now reaching
Earth, That meant the galaxies would appear as
the did when they were infants. If Steidel and
hi collaborators could find enough of them,
these youngsters might reveal not only how gal-
axies first formed but als o how they changed
over time, and how they were distributed across
the universe.
Until then astronomers hunting distant gal-
axies hadn't made much progresso They had
found a few oddball objects that glowed
extremely brightly, but they had failed to find
the run-of-the-rnill, remote galaxies thought to
be prevalent in the cosmos. Most astronomers
figured they would need bigger telescopes to find
these faint objects. But Steidel had another idea:
Maybe galaxies that hailed from the early uni-
verse had already been detected but no one had
been able to pick them out from the thousands
of other objects on sky maps.
Like a few other astronomers before him,
Steidel realized that distant galaxies have their
own signposts. They contain an abundance of
hydrogen gas, as does the vast expanse of inter-
galactic space between them and Earth. When
the ultraviolet light emitted by stars in galaxies
is above a certain energy levei, hydrogen gas
absorbs it. The light never reaches Earth. So
before Steidel and his collaborators ever dreamed
of coming to Keck, they recorded galaxies that
showed up brightly in red and green filters but
were absent when viewed through an ultravio-
let filter. They called these galaxies Lyman break to a distance of about 12 billion light-years. Lyman break gal
galaxies, after Theodore Lyman, a physicist who For faint galaxies, redshift can only be deter- We figured if we
pioneered studies of ultraviolet light in the early mined with a telescope as powerful as Keck. Now it was going to b
20th century. Steidel and his colleagues Mark Dickinson, recalls. But he also
According to the color criterion, the faint gal- Mauro Giavalisco, and graduate student Kurt lhe starlit body r -
axies Steidel's team had found prior to coming Adelberger found themselves with two nights an hour each niz -
to Mauna Kea ought to be remote. But were on the telescope. If they could demonstrate that The fleeting h
they? To measure distance, the astronomers had their color method worked, they would have a alaxy, however,
to determine how much light from a galaxy had foolproof way to find not just one ar two dis- Steidel had pr .
been stretched, or reddened, by the expansion tant galaxies but dozens-even hundreds. that the galaxy
of the universe. The greater this redshift, the Years before, Steidel and his collaborators had Earth. Steidel \ -as -
greater the distance from Earth. A galaxy at already picked out their first target. Residing in ould find an ar
a redshift of three, for instance, corresponds the constellation Eridanus, it was the brightest 00 the next ni'~: ~!~


- illion light-years. Lyman break galaxy the team had yet found . attempted an even more arnbitious feat. Taking
. - can only be deter- "We figured if we were going to be successful, full advantage of the power of the Keck spec-
. 'erful as Keck. Now it was going to be with this object," Steidel trograph, they attempted to measure the dis-
_fark Dickinson, recalls. But he also knew that from Mauna Kea, tance simultaneously to several galaxies in the
uate student Kurt the starlit body rose above the horizon for only same patch of sky. To do so, they used a mask,
~~""">< with two nights an hour each night. a piece of aluminum about the size of a cookie
demonstrate that The f1eeting hour that Keck stared at the sheet, which had several narrow slits carefully
ey would have a galaxy, however, turned out to be enough. Iust cut out. Each slit precisely aligned with the posi-
st one or two dis- as Steidel had predicted, the spectrum revealed tion of a target galaxy. With the mask in place,
~---e<~ hundreds. that the galaxy resided 12 billion light-years from only the light from each target galaxy could enter
- collaborators had Earth. Steidel was thrilled that his technique Keck's spectrograph. By the end of that night
target. Residing in could find an ordinary galaxy so far away. the young astronomers had found 15 galaxies
'as the brightest On the next night at Mauna Kea the astronomers with redshifts greater than three.

On that night, lightly giddy from the high galaxies evolved from the simple universe of dark
altitude, teidel pla red for the first time at Keck matter and elemental gases described by Tom
the dream ,lullab -like music of the alternative Abel. Without such winds we can't easily explain
rock band _ 1azzy tar. It would soon become a the appearance of the visible universe today.
roda for each night Steidel observed at Keck and Beginning where Steidel's team left off,
a special bond between him and Dickinson, astronomer Sandra Faber of the University of
om he had met when they were both college California, Santa Cruz, is poised to break new
. jocke at Princeton in 1980. ground in the study of galaxy formation. She
1997 Steidel's team had bagged another 250 and her collaborators hope to piece together how
Lyman break galaxies and an intriguing pattern baby galaxies, like the ones found by Steidel,
emerged. To the surprise of the astronomers, those developed into the galaxies around us today.
distant galaxies were strongly clustered in a way Last March, wearing a navy blue jumpsuit that
that revealed how dark matter is distributed. The made her look more like an auto mechanic than

"We're collecting the photo album of the

life history of the universe for
the first time: the baby pictures, the
teenage pictures, the grown-up pictures."
first galaxies formed in the densest regions of the a surveyor of the heavens, Faber strode through
universe, which correspond on average with the the chilly rooms of the Keck II observatory,
densest regions of the cosmos today, where we which began operating in 1996 next to the first
find large galaxy groups and clusters. As time telescope. She had come to Mauna Kea to instal1
went on and gravity exerted its inexorable pull, the state-of-the-art Deep Imaging Multi-Object .
regions of lower density also gave birth to gal- Spectrograph (DEIMOS) that she and her team
axies, blazing with newborn stars. had designed. The 20,OOO-pound device, which
has to be slid in and out of position on metal

UST AS IMPORTANT was another discov- tracks, can simultaneously analyze the light from
ery made by Steidel and Kurt Adelberger as many as 130 distant galaxies.
in 2001: Powerful winds were rushing "We're collecting the photo album of the life
out of the Lyman break galaxies, prov- history of the universe for the first time;' she said.
ing that there was more to the story of galaxy "The baby pictures, the teenage pictures, the
formation than dark matter. The winds, driven grown-up pictures." Astronomers are even tak-
by supernova explosions, were so strong they ing snapshots of what the universe looked like
enabled ordinary matter to temporarily escape before galaxies were born. If we used the birth of
the grasp of dark matter, which was unaffected galaxies as our reference point, she said, then the
by the winds. Not only did the winds clear out a hot and cold spots in the cosmic microwave back-
vast bubble around their home galaxy, they car- ground would be the prenatal pictures.
ried hydrogen and other elements into sur- Faber is homing in on the process of galaxy
rounding space. The heavy elements, which could formation from mid-childhood to earlyadult-
only have been forged inside stars, set the stage hood. At redshift three, galaxies were blobbyand
for future generations of galaxies. irregular. At redshift one, corresponding to a
"For a few weeks I dreamed about winds and time when the universe was little more than half .
thought about winds while I was eating my its current age, the shapes of galaxies cataloged
cereal in the morning and while I was in the by Edwin Hubble were beginning to fali into
shower and while I was Rollerblading to work," place. In between is a mystery interval from
says Adelberger, now at Harvard. These winds 12 to 8 billion years ago in which galaxies are
added a layer of complexity to the story of how notoriously hard to detecto During this largely


CLOSE ENOUGH to see in detail in visible light, the Whirlpool galaxy, 28 million light-years away,
flashes tendrils of new blue stars in an image captured by an amateur's telescope. Radio emissions
(far left) reveal strong magnetic fields along the galaxy's spiral arms. A mid-infrared portrait (second
from left) detects dust patterns and new star sites, while a near-IR image (third from !eft) shows the
galaxy's backbone of old stars. X-rays show areas of hot gas (yellow), some of it near black holes.

uncharted interval galaxies matured, taking on one saving grace, however. The emission lines
their final mass and familiar shapes. A goal of are narrow, while those from distant galaxies
DEIMOS is to open this interval to view. are much broader. With that in mind Faber's
"The spectrum of the night sky is the great team designed DEIMOS to great1y expand, or
enemy," she said, "an incredible picket fence disperse, the infrared spectrum. That enables
of glowing emission lines" -the bright light the team to look between the pickets and focus
emitted by atoms and molecules at sharply on the light emitted by the galaxies.
defined wavelengths. This picket fence in Earth's That's when the fun begins. The brightness
atmosphere overwhelms the faint infrared light and shapes of the galaxiesat different redshifts-
from gaJaxies her team wants to study. There's and myriad other properties that can be observed

ve s ill conceals what happened during th
to DEU IOS-----canindicate how the small, The answer could be that in recent times spirals
scruffy Iooking galaxies in the early universe have grown by slowly drawing in material rather
íormed lhe familiar galaxies that Hubble than through collisions. If her reasoning is
- ibed in the 1920s. correct, spiral galaxies should be forming stars
Perhap the most important of these proper- at a gentle rate rather than in bursts that
. mass, Faber said. By measuring the mass accompany collisions. Over the next few years,
0- galaxies observed at different times in the uni- DEIMOS should provide the answer.
rer e, Faber hopes to trace the steps by which A few hours after Faber finished her work for
galaxies merge and grow larger. She would the day, the domes of the twin Keck telescopes
also like to learn why spiral galaxies, which are slid open and the instruments drank in the faint
easily disturbed by collisions, are so abundant. light from some of the most distant objects in

DOUBLE TROUBLE: A pair of supermassive black holes dwells deep within a single galaxy, NGC
6240,400 million light-years from Earth. Astronomers believe the unusually bright, messy galaxy
(opticaJ image, top left) was formed from the collision of two smaller galaxies, each containing a black
hole, Wrthin a few hundred million years the two black holes, which circle each other (x-ray image,
top right), are expected to merge-one way that black holes are thought to grow. A sequence of
fonnations from a cluster to a large galaxy (art, above) shows how black holes vary in proportion to
tf1e amount of star material, reaching sizes equal to billions of times the sun's mass. Such discoveries
bring astronomers closer to deciphering the blueprint for galaxies, nature's grandest structures.


crucial period of galaxy formation, which
astronomers have dubbed the Oark Ages.
heavens.Down in Waimea,48 miles away,two fives. For on this night, March 13, 2002, the as-
- up of astronomers were gathered inside tronomers had found the second most distant
industrial-style low-rise building to relay galaxyknown in the universe (after another gal-
ctions to operators on the mountain. Since axy discovered at Keck with a redshift of 6.56).
6, a year after Steidel began his work, the
pes have been directed from control rooms o WHATDOES IT ALL MEAN?Have
this building.
ln one room Arjun Dey of the National
tical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Dan-
tem of NASA'sIet Propulsion Laboratory,
eran observer Hy Spinrad of the University
S astronomers finally solved the riddle
of how galaxieswere bom and evolved?
Not quite, says William C. Keel of the
University of Alabama, but astronomers are
likely to put pieces of the puzzle together over
= California, Berkeley, and graduate student the next decade. With mammoth new maps of
- eve Dawson were aiming the Keck I telescope the nearby cosmos, scientists today can study
a catalog of faint galaxies, hoping to peer 13 billion years of galaxy evolution. But a veil
eeper than ever before into the universe- still conceals what happened during the first,
billion years farther back in time than the crucial period of galaxy formation, which
axies found by Steidel.These are galaxiesthat astronomers have dubbed the Dark Ages. It
ow brightest when they are observed through began a few hundred thousand years after the
5lters that allow only certain wavelengths of big bang and ended perhaps a billion years
ight to passoThe wavelengths correspond to a later. During the first chunk of that time, the
specificultraviolet radiation emitted by hydrogen universe was truly dark. But later on, the first
toms that has been highly redshifted by the glimmers of starlight emerged and a telescope
expansion of the universe. The filtered light that has enough light-gathering power and is
, rasan indication, but not a confirmation, that sensitive to just the right wavelengths, should
the galaxies were located near the edge of the be able to detect them.
risible universe. A key task, already begun, will be to build a
In the control room next door, meanwhile, telescope to penetrate the veil. Keel and many
Caltech astronomer George Djorgovski was also astronomers are pinning their hopes on NASA's
studying the distant universe. Using Keck TI,he [ames Webb Space Telescope,the proposed sue-
as trying to take the spectra of one of the most cessor to the Hubble Space Telescope,scheduled
distant known quasars, the brilliant beacons for launch about 2010. Equipped with a mirror
that emanate from the cores of some galaxies. capable of collecting six times as much light as
This quasar was so far away that to reach Earth, Hubble, the telescope,with its advanced infrared
its light pierced regions so far back in time that and visible light instruments, will be able to
they hadn't yet been blasted by radiation from detect objects much dimmer and farther away
the first generation of stars in the universe. than those observed by any other telescope.That
Back at the Keck I control room, Dey and his should give scientists the power for the first time
coUeagues were staring at a bunch of squiggly to peer into the Dark Ages and to record the
black lines on the computer screen. After sev- faint, warm light from some of the very first
eral hours of analysis, they carne to a consen- stars and galaxies, objects that can now only be
sus. At a redshift of 5.74, the light that had fallen seen in compute r sim-
on the Keck telescope had left a galaxy known ulations like those on
as LALA Jl42546.76+352036.3 more than 13 Tom Abel's laptop. Watch simulations of the
billion years ago. It appeared they had found Until then the final birth and development of
the third most distant galaxy known. But after frontier of galaxy for- galaxies as shown in this
a final check, Dey and his collaborators smiled mation awaits us, out story at nationalgeographic
even more broadly and gaNeeach other high in the darkness. O .comjngmj0302.