Astronomers have discovered a luminous galaxy caught in the act of reionizing its surrounding gas only 800 million years after the Big Bang.
The research, led by Romain Meyer, PhD student at UCL in London, UK, has been presented at the virtual annual meeting of the European Astronomical Society (EAS).
Studying the first galaxies that formed 13 billion years ago is essential to understanding our cosmic origins. One of the current hot topics in extragalactic astronomy is ''cosmic reionization,'' the process in which the intergalactic gas was ionized (atoms stripped of their electrons).
Cosmic reionization is similar to an unsolved murder: We have clear evidence for it, but who did it, how and when? We now have strong evidence that hydrogen reionization was completed about 13 billion years ago, in the first billion years of the universe, with bubbles of ionized gas slowly growing and overlapping.
The objects capable of creating such ionized hydrogen bubbles have however remained mysterious until now: the discovery of a luminous galaxy in which 60-100 percent of ionizing photons escape, is likely responsible for ionizing its local bubble. This suggests the case is closer to being solved.
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