Astronomers from China Uncover Numerous Gas-Rich Galaxies in the Early Universe

Chinese astronomers have used the world’s largest filled dish radio antenna, the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), to uncover early galaxies that were significantly gas-rich. The research was conducted in Guizhou Province, China, and the findings have been confirmed by the James Webb Space Telescope. The results have provided new insights into the nature of the early universe and the galaxies that inhabited it.

The research unveiled six high-redshift galaxies, previously undiscovered, which were found to possess an abundance of hydrogen gas. This level of gas was surprisingly higher than the amount found in the local universe’s galaxies, which number in the tens of thousands. The study revealed that these galaxies, which existed around four billion years ago, had access to large reserves of star-forming gas, much larger than those seen in present-day galaxies.

The FAST instrument, to date, has found over 100 new galaxies located up to five billion light-years away. It’s anticipated that it will discover at least 1,000 new galaxies throughout its operational lifespan. These findings have highlighted the extraordinary sensitivity of the world’s largest radio telescope.

The team found it challenging to locate the optical counterparts of the galaxies discovered via radio telescopes, given the significant distances and the differences in the wavelengths. Despite FAST’s remarkable capabilities, it falls short in accurately localizing targets compared to optical telescopes. To overcome this, optical telescopes in Russia and the United States were used to identify the counterparts.

The researchers discovered that these distant galaxies contained between two to three times more stars than the Milky Way and approximately ten times the mass of Hydrogen. The results of the study have been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Peng Bo from the NAOC, one of the authors, stated that these discoveries were part of the ongoing FAST Ultra Deep Survey. This work highlights the extreme sensitivity of the world’s largest radio telescope.

In related research, another team of scientists discovered extensive gas reservoirs surrounding galaxies in the early universe using data obtained from the Webb telescope. This complementary finding lends further credence to the conclusions drawn from the study conducted using the FAST telescope.

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