ALMA Reveals the Most Luminous Known Galaxy in the Universe

Most Luminous Galaxy in the Universe

Artist impression of W2246-0526, the most luminous known galaxy, and three companion galaxies. Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello

The most luminous galaxy in the universe has been caught in the act of stripping away nearly half the mass from at least three of its smaller neighbors, according to a new study published in the journal Science. The light from this galaxy, known as W2246-0526, took 12.4 billion years to reach us, so we are seeing it as it was when our universe was only about a tenth of its present age.

New observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) reveal distinct streamers of material being pulled from three smaller galaxies and flowing into the more massive galaxy, which was discovered in 2015 by NASA’s space-based Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). It is by no means the largest or most massive galaxy we know of, but it is unrivaled in its brightness, emitting as much infrared light as 350 trillion Suns.

The connecting tendrils between the galaxies contain about as much material as the galaxies themselves. ALMA’s amazing resolution and sensitivity allowed the researchers to detect these remarkably faint and distant trans-galactic streamers.

W2246 0526

ALMA image reveals how W2246-0526 is being fed by three companion galaxies through trans-galactic streamers of gas. The main galaxy and one of its companions are in the center. To the lower left is another companion and its large tidal tail that connects it to the main galaxy. The upper left concentration is the third such companion galaxy. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO),T. Díaz-Santos et al.; S. Dagnello (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

“We knew from previous data that there were three companion galaxies, but there was no evidence of interactions between these neighbors and the central source,” said Tanio Díaz-Santos of the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile, lead author of the study. “We weren’t looking for cannibalistic behavior and weren’t expecting it, but this deep dive with the ALMA observatory makes it very clear.”

Galactic cannibalism is not uncommon, though this is the most distant galaxy in which such behavior has been observed and the study authors are not aware of any other direct images of a galaxy simultaneously feeding on material from multiple sources at those early cosmic times.

The researchers emphasize that the amount of gas being devoured by W2246-0526 is enough to keep it forming stars and feeding its central black hole for hundreds of millions of years.

Composite Image of W2246 0526

Composite image of W2246-0526 and its three companion galaxies shown in the ALMA portion of the image (orange). The blue background is an optical image of the same region from Hubble. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO);T. Díaz-Santos et al.; N. Lira

This galaxy’s startling luminosity is not due to its individual stars. Rather, its brightness is powered by a tiny, yet fantastically energetic disk of gas that is being superheated as it spirals in on the supermassive black hole. The light from this blazingly bright accretion disk is then absorbed by the surrounding dust, which re-emits the energy as infrared light.

This extreme infrared radiation makes this galaxy one of a rare class of quasars known as Hot, Dust-Obscured Galaxies or Hot DOGs. Only about one out of every 3,000 quasars observed by WISE belongs to this class.

Much of the dust and gas being siphoned away from the three smaller galaxies is likely being converted into new stars and feeding the larger galaxy’s central black hole. This galaxy’s gluttony, however, may lead to its self-destruction. Previous research suggests that the energy of the AGN will ultimately jettison much, if not all of the galaxy’s star-forming fuel.

An earlier work led by co-author Chao-Wei Tsai of UCLA estimates that the black hole at the center of W2246-0526 is about 4 billion times the mass of the Sun. The mass of the black hole directly influences how bright the AGN can become, but — according to this earlier research — W2246-0526 is about 3 times more luminous than what should be possible. Solving this apparent contradiction will require additional observations.

Publication: T. Díaz-Santos, et al., “The multiple merger assembly of a hyperluminous obscured quasar at redshift 4.6,” Science 15 Nov 2018: eaap7605; DOI: 10.1126/science.aap7605

6 Comments on "ALMA Reveals the Most Luminous Known Galaxy in the Universe"

  1. Although the headline is correct in saying “the most luminous known galaxy in the universe”, the first sentence of the article is incorrect when it omits the word “known”. Chances are, there are many other galaxies in the universe that are even more luminous but have not yet been discovered.

  2. wilhelm schroeder | November 18, 2018 at 9:05 pm | Reply

    If there’s an Earth-like planet anywhere in this most luminous galaxy, I imagine all the creatures there have to wear shades.

  3. We are the mound builders and trees are there all the Elementals are there every single animal fish and insect is there we have a Suns and moons it’s a legion and we already have people on it it has streets with our names and we’re still on Earth right now but many of the people have already gone past over this summer I had to heal our President Obama was a vampire and over 800,000 Hispanic people crossed the border and 9000 of them were children and he made them into vampires and so the Inca Gods that I work with brought them to me because they were trapped in a cave in Taiwan and it took me months to heal them months to heal them and they went over already there on the planet but their bodies are in Georgia and their bodies are only in 800,000 plastic containers storage containers not planted in the ground and the horses are telling me that the zombies and the horses so I don’t know what we’re going to do but they’re probably going to a rat try to arrest to me

  4. Perception is deceptive. It’s hard to come to a definite conclusion on observations when time is an illuision, people live in a physical and Spiritual 3 DIAMENSIONAL BOX. And can’t figure out a simple explanation for the Quantom “cat in the box question”. It’s like someone who is watching the Matrix part 3 without watching 1 and 2. The cat got out the box,it allowed u to believe it was scared, vulnerable, and that u we’re supperior! That’s one cool cat!! But that cat wasn’t a cat after all. Chichester , took the LOW ROAD!!. INCORRUPTIBLE NEW TRAIL NO ONE SEEN ! Why are we fascinated with the outside of things when everything we need is inside? How can we determine a billion bigger than the sun when u have never crossed a black hole? Maybe it is whole? Full of something? How about all the scientist and all the brain’s of the world can’t invente peace not pieces. Solve hunger, loneliness, equality here first. U say a billion all I here is ” Willy Wonka singing Pure imagination!! U have a Solar Eclipse last year, a Interstellar Object that u can’t get a grasp on,and the fact that it’s the same object that is on every temple wall with the Eagle, helicopters, crescent moon eclipse. So the 5 senses my alien is in the middle of alien believe…U ALL Created half of everything u see. I’m not pointing fingers, just reality is u don’t know! Measuring time is impossible! Even if u die BECOME reincarnated in a different year how would u know if u died 50-100000years? U can’t measure distance either. We’re all children trying to get attention. And Quantom will always be a cloud when pessimistic and optimistic half full half empty is any different than a ton of bricks compared to a ton of feathers! Until the human being learns POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE through self experience, and find out that it’s not the way. New trail will get us there! Until that day, EVERYTHING will sink in the bottomless sandbox of a adult childs ignorant mind. I learned at a young age when my parents lied straight faced. So I left at 16 and now at 38.. I learned that separation of the mind through the heart taught me never believe a half a cup it always has 2 sides..and there both wrong! See Consciousness is like our spirit’s. We all are one Spiritualy whole. Same.perfect. When we CROSSED over and we’re Split hence Tesla not Tesla.. 369…9 SPIRIT.. SPLIT into half a heart and a body. So everything perceived is flipped, crossed. Ying yang 96..remainder 3..so your physical 2 eyes are Spiritualy and inside u as a “I”.I pass nothing on that I have not experienced in flesh PERSONALLY. Like Everyone is out to get the U S. Nukes.. Russia, North Korea..fear, blame, shame, block the heart. Illusion. Hell and devil’s. Thought up wizard of Oz following a paved painted road! Trickory. The brain is just a memory bank. It is incapable of facts or theories and only thing that is fact is a fact that thinking without emotions gets u in a state of wonder! So if you tell a rapist have a wonderful or ful..not full .half..ful of wonder day…Good morning or mourning..Prey pray.. your judgement of just a individual a foot away is wrong and it could be your political vote u support. Level the playing field.. Neutrinos are everywhere but it’s a insult for something that quarks and goes to unpredictable movements but it carries no weight and has no mass.Does the wind carry weight and supply energy? Did u think up this wind? That little dinky sun blow u into a black hole? And I ask people a simple explanation of a nursery rhyme and the concept of time is just a human scheduling tool. If Old Mac Donald had a farm would it be Royal? Or Row y’all? Roman..or Row man? CHICKENS WHO CROSS THE C..And EIO? AU IS BEGINNING AND END..So if you want to leave the farm Everyone outside in? Love evolves..not telescopes, and I’ll challenge any scientist with any degree all in one against the open Consciousness of the creator by a worthy messenger that uses 360 degrees of wholeyspirit, love, sacrifice, and the knowledge of the degree of separation. Your math has no God in it and is manipulated by a cardboard box. I know that opposites attract so your protons and electrons are Separated by a neutral force! U don’t we know about the box, trickory through feelings. I got one for u. Just like our Split SPIRiT, flipped! The other half is a walkie talkie..io, image, Omega io..game.. EIO, PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT, Alpha in the word.. Pope comes to… Philly… When u BECOME Neutral and know both sides of the fence by experience..that a positive or negative reactions play apart in us. The EXPANSION of space is Neutral drawing a line up and down like a tennis court while u hit balls either on negative or Positive side. So we all have a choice to live through others and hold on to something that doesn’t fit, or simplify the box let the past go it’s the real hell or devil. Lived is living in the present, your box is opened by love FORGIVING EVERYONE FOR EVERYTHING AND FORGIVE YOURSELF.To judge or to even think u could be a dominant anything, without putting everyone ahead of u first. Amen in the name..name points blame! It’s the first separation from God and u are all JESUS..J is silent but not anymore. He’s u he’s us WE.. Separated but Connected individualals through the spirit. And God Split for a man who was one who claimed he was Jesus..once had a name , but when evil people are going to kill your baby a king no less that everyone follows who blantly kills babies named Savior and u support and trust Kings, Queens, especially without breaking bread or even ever being in the same state at the exact same time.. Time means nothing without interacting with the experience for the chance or risk of failure! See when people u love lie to u, it’s because they thought it was a good idea. So u say Jesus was worth the slaughter of how many babies? Jewish? There unsure if he was Jewish? So if Jesus was God in flesh u we’re a virgin birth which would be my all in. God would not protect him? He would not feed him? If it’s anything other than I believe I trust all in me in my creator!! Then everyone specultes, because here’s the joker wild..why were the 3 WISEMEN so wise..And also, could the story of Jesus be propheted then and actually is happening now!!..If I tell you to look up at my hand while the other hand holds up 1-5 fingers on the other can u tell me 10 out of 10 times or even half what the number is? See if u live breathe sleep work watch a box. Your boxed mind slows to a buffering point and it’s fool of b.s.Then u BELIEVE Everything like a flu shot is good cause it’s free..or maybe u use 10 percent of the mind..lol..I have a universal Neutron unpredictable through creation mind that reacts before a “think” or a “u” are instead of a “I know” proof I was there..not ” they” no ownership or it’s really”them” the bipolar good evil dude that never says I don’t know..has a equation about a cat really a man who escapes a box!! Answer me this..if you fart in the same exact cat box does the smell ever go away? And are these boxes imaginary, physical..and if physical who asked the question because that’s animal cruelty and u just get in the box with the bars at your face. New meaning to setting the bar. No hostility, or emotions u all are just children having a test learning good and evil. How come a proton is counter balance is more than one electron? If u Split something and instead of 2 it was 4 would u know how to count? Why is the word change currency? Does that mean if I am poor I can’t have change like the rest of the kids? It rattles me when I don’t have change in my pocket to buy, materials..Ever hear of internal alchemy? Lead led into gold?? Let’s just say have a sit or LI.. LIKE LAY DOWN…AND DON’T BE A SILLY SAUL..U WILL ONLY UNDERSTAND HALF THE STORY! pH level is rising but it’s always called rain to a Ally??.. I wear flip flops and sing about how much I love how a hose bends. Thank goodness changing winds don’t piss on my back! European on themselves and drink lots of fluids!

  5. The light from this galaxy took 12.4 billion years to reach us. This always begs the question could we see this galaxy in any other part of the sky as a younger say 4 or 5 billion year old galaxy? I am sure it has moved in that time. Not just through gravitational leasing.

    Is am sorry this may be a stupid question. But that is one hell of a lot of time that it could have moved from it’s original place. Is there any way we could see it evolve.

  6. To JSC.You need mental help asap.Hope u r not walking around free .Scary

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