The Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array is putting together an astronomical census of nearby stellar nurseries called the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS, or PHANGS. So far, about 100,000 such nurseries have been charted over the course of more than 750 hours of observation focused on 74 nearby galaxies. The goal is to eventually characterise some 300,000 stellar nurseries to help astronomers better understand why some star forming regions evolve gradually while others experience rapid, if not explosive, rates of star birth. The PHANGS study is expected to shed light on how a galaxy’s size, age and internal dynamics might influence star formation.
Astronomers have discovered a new kind of galaxy in the early universe, less than a billion years after the Big Bang. These galaxies are forming stars more than a hundred times faster than our own Milky Way. The discovery could explain an earlier finding: a population of surprisingly massive galaxies at a time 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang, which would require such hyper-productive precursors to grow their hundreds of billions of stars.
The first stars appeared about 100 million years after the Big Bang. When the universe was about 3 billion years old, star formation activity peaked at rates about ten times above current levels. Why this happened, and whether the physical processes back then were different from those today, are among the most pressing questions in astronomy.