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Each clump is the size of a typical luminous galaxy dating to the epoch of Himiko.Together, the clumps achieve a prodigious rate of star formation, equivalent to about one hundred solar masses per year.How could such an early galaxy have sufficient energy to power such a vast glowing gas cloud?In search of the answer to this question, Richard Ellis, the Steele Family Professor of Astronomy at Caltech, together with colleagues from the University of Tokyo and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, undertook an exploration of Himiko using the combined resources of the Hubble Space Telescope and the new Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile's Atacama Desert.Although the giant gas cloud was bustling with energy at ultraviolet and optical frequencies, it was comparatively sleepy in the submillimeter and radio ranges that ALMA detects.Ordinarily, intense star formation creates dust clouds that are composed of elements such as carbon, oxygen, and silicon, which are heavy in comparison to the hydrogen and helium of the early universe.Himiko, a "space blob" named after a legendary queen from ancient Japan, is an enormous galaxy, with a hot glowing gaseous halo extending over 55,000 light-years.Not only is Himiko very large, it is extraordinarily distant, seen at a time approximately 800 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was only 6 percent of its present size and stars and galaxies were just beginning to form.
"Himiko reveals no radio emission from either the solid or gaseous state of heavy elements." remarked Kotaro Kohno, a member of the team.
Also missing was the spectral signature associated with the emission of gaseous carbon, something also common in galaxies with intense star formation.
Both of these nondetections—of substantial radio waves and of gaseous carbon—are perplexing since carbon is ordinarily rapidly synthesized in young stars.
Matthew Ashby, a team member at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said "We find Himiko is converting gas into stars at a rate of about a hundred solar masses per year, several times more intensely than any known object at this epoch.
This intense star production rate is probably sufficient to heat the vast space blob." The most astonishing find, however, is that the ALMA data show no signal of carbon gas which is used as the index of star formation nor radiation from dust clouds within the system heated by young stars.