Washington: Scientists have dug deeper and discovered that galaxies actually settled in to their current forms some 2 billion years earlier than previously thought.
A group of researchers used the collective efforts of the hundreds of thousands of people that volunteered for the galaxy Zoo project to shed some light on the way that galaxies form and develop.
Dr. Brooke Simmons of the University of Oxford and her collaborators set Zoo volunteers the task of classifying the shapes of tens of thousands of galaxies observed by the Hubble Space Telescope. These objects are typically very distant, so they appeared more than 10 billion years ago, when the universe was about 3 billion years old, less than a quarter of its present age.
The newly classified galaxies were striking in that they look a lot like those in today's universe, with disks, bars and spiral arms. But theorists predict that they should have taken another 2 billion years to begin to form, so things seem to have been settling down a lot earlier than expected.
Brooke commented that they had predictions from galaxy simulations that they shouldn't find any of the barred features that we see in nearby, evolved galaxies, because very young galaxies might be too agitated for them to form. But with the public help they got in searching through many thousands of images of distant galaxies, they have discovered that some galaxies settle very early on in the universe.
The paper is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.