Astronomers Eye Dark Galaxies For the First Time
Nick Gilbert
at 12:09 PM Jul 12 2012
The red circle indicates the quasar, while the blue circles indicate the faint glow of the revealed dark galaxies
ESO, Digitized Sky Survey 2 and S. Cantalupo (UCSC)

European scientists have zeroed in on 'dark galaxies' for the very first time using the Very Large Telescope in Chile, potentially plugging another gap in our knowledge of how galaxies like our own came to be.

Dark galaxies are those galaxies which are generally smaller than developed ones, and are almost entirely composed of gas, as opposed to stellar objects like planets and stars.

It's this fact that has made them difficult to observe in the past, but scientists with the European Souther Observatory (ESO) solved that problem in the time honoured way of finding a really powerful torch, and shining it around.

In this case, that torch was a quasar.

"We searched for the fluorescent glow of the gas in dark galaxies when they are illuminated by the ultraviolet light from a nearby and very bright quasar," said study co-author Simon Lilly from the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich.  

"The light from the quasar makes the dark galaxies light up in a process similar to how white clothes are illuminated by ultraviolet lamps in a night club."

[via Space]

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