SAN DIEGO -- Strange objects in faraway space known to astronomers only as Giant Galactic Blobs have, upon close inspection, become a lot weirder.
The blobs are huge clouds of glowing gas. They've been puzzling astronomers since their discovery five years ago. Researchers discussed new observations of the object here today at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which works like night-vision goggles to detect infrared radiation, peeked inside the blobs to reveal galaxies lurking within. Turns out there are typically two or more galaxies inside a given blob.
Take Blob B6, for example (yes, that's what astronomers call it). B6 contains a trio of galaxies, said James Colbert of Caltech's Spitzer Science Center. The galaxies are likely to merge, and that could have something to do with creation and illumination of the blobs. But merger activity alone isn't a sufficient explanation for the cosmic lightbulbs.
Three things might cause the blobs hydrogen to glow, Colbert said.
- Radiation from matter being superheated as it swirls into black holes at the galaxies' centers
- Superwinds of material from mass quantities of exploding stars
- Energy released by gas that cools as it falls into the center of a galaxy