Washington, Jan 11 (ANI): Astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, have suggested a possible missing link between gas-filled, star-forming galaxies and older, gas-depleted galaxies typically characterized as "red and dead."
They have found that a long-known "early-type" galaxy, NGC 1266, is expelling molecular gas, mostly hydrogen, from its core.
The gas expulsion from the center of the galaxy could be one of many mechanisms that help gas-rich star-forming galaxies evolve into the gas-poor red and dead galaxies littering the cosmos, said Leo Blitz, UC Berkeley professor of astronomy.
With such a rapid outflow - about 13 solar masses per year traveling at up to 400 kilometers per second - the galaxy NGC 1266 could easily shed all of its molecular gas in less than 100 million years, equivalent to about one percent the age of the Milky Way, according to the researchers.
"This is the first example of an early-type galaxy where all the molecular gas - the star-forming gas - is concentrated in the nucleus and where we have such a high-resolution picture of what's going on with the molecular gas in the core," Blitz said.
"We see molecular gas being expelled at speeds that will allow it to escape from the galaxy and return to the intergalactic medium, and we see the reservoir of gas from which it's drawing. That tells us that if things go on at the current rate, the gas will only last another 85 million more years," Blitz added.
The findings will be presented this week at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle. (ANI)