NASA has discovered the brightest galaxies in the universe with the help of its Hubble Space Telescope.
Hubble captured the closest views of the most luminous infrared galaxies present in the universe which were 10,000 times brighter than our Milky Way.
A cosmic phenomenon called gravitational lensing was used in order to magnify the galaxy images. These images reveal a tangled web of misshapen objects punctuated by rings and arcs like exotic patterns. The odd shapes are because the foreground lensing galaxies' powerful gravity distorts the images of the background galaxies, a NASA statement revealed.
The image of the galaxies captured by the Hubble telescope existed between 8 to 11.5 billion years ago when the star formation was happening at a high pace in the universe. Quick birth of the stars -- more than 10,000 new stars annually with each galaxy -- is said to be the reason behind the radiance of the galaxies which were detected in infrared. In comparison to these galaxies, the Milky Way produces approximately less than two solar masses per year.
"The star-birth frenzy creates lots of dust, which enshrouds the galaxies, making them too faint to detect in visible light. But they glow fiercely in infrared light, shining with the brilliance of 10 to 100 trillion suns," a NASA statement read.
Gravitational lenses occur when the intense gravity of a massive galaxy or cluster of galaxies magnifies the light of fainter, more distant background sources.
"We have hit the jackpot of gravitational lenses," said lead researcher James Lowenthal of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
"These ultra-luminous, massive, starburst galaxies are very rare. Gravitational lensing magnifies them so that you can see small details that otherwise are unimaginable. We can see features as small as about 100 light-years or less across. We want to understand what's powering these monsters, and gravitational lensing allows us to study them in greater detail," Lowenthal added.
Some of the odd shapes that can be seen in the images above could be an outcome of collisions between distant massive galaxies.
Only a few dozen such galaxies
The cohort of researchers revealed that only a few dozen of these luminous infrared galaxies are scattered in the universe. These galaxies are present in unusually dense regions of the space which lead to rapid star formation in the early universe.
The galaxies may hold clues to how galaxies were formed billions of years ago. "There are so many unknowns about star and galaxy formation," Lowenthal elucidated.
"We need to understand the extreme cases, such as these galaxies, as well as the average cases, like our Milky Way, in order to have a complete story about how galaxy and star formation happen," he explained further.
What triggers the fast rate of star formation in the galaxies still remains a mystery for the astronomers. They believe that assessing this phenomenon in October 2018 with the help of the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, and those made using the James Webb Space Telescope, which are more powerful successors of Hubble, would help them in digging out more about these luminous galaxies.