Back in the early days of our universe, bright, easy-to-spot massive galaxies were not common. And even for those that were there, astronomers run into a problem when they try to find them, as they were not as conspicuous during previous eras, often being shrouded and hidden by massive amounts of dust. However, in a study published this week in the Astrophysical Journal, researchers reported a staggering 574 newly discovered, massive galaxies dating back to the beginnings of the universe.
The galaxies were spotted by astronomers looking for light close to the infrared part of the spectrum. As the universe is always expanding, distant objects seem to race away from us, causing distortions in their light. Essentially, as space expands, waves of light get stretched out, coming closer to the aforementioned infrared part of the spectrum.
To this end, in this case, exploring near infrared light helped scientists overcome both the distance and the dust that obscured ancient stars, in effect, revealing the galaxies that are hidden from us despite their enormous size.
Lead researcher Karina Caputi said in a statement: “We uncovered 574 new massive galaxies — the largest sample of such hidden galaxies in the early universe ever assembled. Studying them allows us to answer a simple but important question: when did the first massive galaxies appear?”
These new-old galaxies indicate that galactic monsters (galaxies the size of our own and bigger) started forming around 1 billion years after the Big Bang. Their vast numbers also suggests that large galaxies were much more common at the time than scientists realized — and there are probably more galaxies out there still waiting to be revealed. This discovery may lead astronomers to revise some of their models on the way the early universe behaved.