Formation of Galaxy

Asked by Achyuth Murlei | 22nd Aug, 2011, 05:53: PM

Expert Answer:

The study of galaxy formation and evolution is concerned with the processes that formed a heterogeneous universe from a homogeneous beginning, the formation of the first galaxies, the way galaxies change over time, and the processes that have generated the variety of structures observed in nearby galaxies. It is one of the most active research areas in astrophysics.

After the Big Bang, the universe, for a time, was remarkably homogeneous, as can be observed in the Cosmic Microwave Background or CMB (the fluctuations of which are less than one part in one hundred thousand). There was little-to-no structure in the universe, and thus no galaxies. Therefore we must ask how the smoothly distributed universe of the CMB became the clumpy universe we see today.

The most accepted theory of how these structures came to be is that all the large-scale structure of the cosmos we observe today was formed as a consequence of the growth of the primordial fluctuations, which are small changes in the density of the universe in a confined region. As the universe cooled clumps of dark matter began to condense, and within them gas began to condense. The primordial fluctuations gravitationally attracted gas and dark matter to the denser areas, and thus the seeds that would later become galaxies were formed. These structures constituted the first galaxies. At this point the universe was almost exclusively composed of hydrogen, helium, and dark matter. Soon after the first proto-galaxies formed the hydrogen and helium gas within them began to condense and make the first stars. Thus the first galaxies were then formed. In 2007 the Keck telescope, a team from California Institute of Technology found six star forming galaxies about 13.2 billion light years (light travel distance) away and therefore created when the universe was only 500 million years old.[1] The discovery of a galaxy more than 13 billion years old, was reported in January 2011 which existed only 480 million years after the Big Bang.

The universe was very violent in its early epochs, and galaxies grew quickly, evolving by accretion of smaller mass galaxies. The result of this process is left imprinted on the distribution of galaxies in the nearby universe (see image of 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey). Galaxies are not isolated objects in space, but rather galaxies in the universe are distributed in a great cosmic web of filaments. The locations where the filaments meet are dense clusters of galaxies, that began as the small fluctuations to the universe. Hence the distribution of galaxies is closely related to the physics of the early universe.

Despite its many successes, this picture is not sufficient to explain the variety of structure we see in galaxies. Galaxies come in a variety of shapes, from round featureless elliptical galaxies to the pancake-flat spiral galaxies.


Answered by  | 23rd Aug, 2011, 04:50: PM

Queries asked on Sunday & after 7pm from Monday to Saturday will be answered after 12pm the next working day.