A new study led by University of Minnesota astrophysicists shows that high-energy light from small galaxies may have played a key role in the early evolution of the Universe. The research gives insight into how the Universe became reionized, a problem that astronomers have been trying to solve for years.
The research is published in The Astrophysical Journal, a peer-reviewed scientific journal of astrophysics and astronomy.
After the Big Bang, when the Universe was formed billions of years ago, it was in an ionized state. This means that the electrons and protons floated freely throughout space. As the Universe expanded and started cooling down, it changed to a neutral state when the protons and electrons combined into atoms, akin to water vapor condensing into a cloud.
Now however, scientists have observed that the Universe is back in an ionized state. A major endeavor in astronomy is figuring out how this happened. Astronomers have theorized that the energy for reionization must have come from galaxies themselves. But, it’s incredibly hard for enough high energy light to escape a galaxy due to hydrogen clouds within it that absorb the light, much like clouds in the Earth’s atmosphere absorb sunlight on an overcast day.
Astrophysicists from the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering may have found the answer to that problem. Using data from the Gemini telescope, the researchers have observed the first ever galaxy in a “blow-away” state, meaning that the hydrogen clouds