Lyman Alpha Blob

ALB
Alpha Lyman Blob by the European Southern Observatory
Image Credit: ESO / M. Hayes

The European Southern Observatory‘s Very Large Telescope has returned images and data from a vast cloud of glowing gas at the edge of the observable universe. The paper appears in Nature: “Central Powering of the Largest Lyman-alpha Nebula is Revealed by Polarized Radiation”. The object is a “Lyman-alpha-blob” and has entire galaxies embedded in it.

The Object in the paper is known as LAB-1 and was discovered in 2000. It has a diameter of 300,000 light years (our Milky Way is 100,000 light years across). LAB-1 has several primordial galaxies inside, including one with an active core (quasar).

There have been two competing theories about the light emitted by these distant (11-12 billion light years) objects. One idea is that the collapsing gas clouds making up a blob creates the energy that is radiated. A second theory is that the blob is large enough to contain one or more galaxies, which provide the energy needed to shine so brightly. The paper provides evidence for this latter theory.

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