The movement of gas into a giant galaxy provides evidence of material recycling.

An international team of space scientists has discovered that the observation of a gas cloud stream as it enters a massive galaxy may provide evidence of the recycling of gas material. In their paper distributed in the journal Science, the gathering depicts their recognition and examination of a gas cloud encompassing a thick cosmic system bunching 11 billion light years away and what they gained from their work.

For a long time, space physicists have hypothesized that the enriched gases that surround galaxies could be drawn into these galaxies and used as the basis for the formation of new stars. Additionally, they have suggested that such gases may have emerged as a result of supernova explosions that escaped their galaxy. As a result, when those gases are dragged back into the galaxy, they are being recycled. The research team believes it may have discovered evidence of such recycling in this new endeavor.

The data from the Subaru and Keck II telescopes, which were focused on a massive galaxy at redshift 2.3 and surrounded by a MAMMOTH-1 nebula—a cloud of gas and dust—were analyzed by the researchers. At the time the cloud was first found in 2017, it was viewed as strange. However, a new investigation suggests that three distinct gas streams are bringing material from the nebula closer to the galaxy. They found that two of the streams highlighted a solitary quasar, which they suspect lives in the universe.

A more in-depth examination of the streams revealed that, in addition to hydrogen and helium, they also contained a significant amount of carbon, a substance previously discovered to originate in stars. As a result, the absence of carbon in a star’s gas stream suggests that the star has been expelled by a supernova. Carbon’s presence in the gas that appears to be entering the galaxy suggests that it will soon be utilized in the formation of new stars.

The team used kinematic modeling of the galaxy and nebula to show how the gas streams were spiraling into the galaxy. This suggests that the gas streams are likely part of a huge recycling process in which stars explode and the leftover material is used to build new stars.

More information: Shiwu Zhang et al, Inspiraling streams of enriched gas observed around a massive galaxy 11 billion years ago, Science (2023). DOI: 10.1126/science.abj9192

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