Mystery surrounds the early Universe. However, astronomers occasionally get a glimpse of what the Universe was like by peeking back in time at faraway, ancient galaxies. And galaxy SPT0311-58 has just demonstrated how little we know about the young cosmos. Water was discovered in the galaxy, which is almost 12.88 billion light years away, by scientists. This is the farthest observation of H2O in a star-forming galaxy, as well as the most complete study of molecular gas at such a young age in the Universe history.
The findings were published in The Astrophysical Journal on Wednesday and are available on the pre-print server Arxiv. Sreevani Jarugula, an astronomer at the University of Illinois and the study’s principal author, first noticed SPT0311-58 in 2017 and was taken aback by how much dust and gas it contained. “We were curious about the galaxy’s molecular richness,” Jarugula tells Inverse. Both water and carbon monoxide molecules were discovered by the scientists. SPT0311-58 consists of two galaxies that appear to be merging.
When a huge object, such as a star or galaxy, passes in front of an object in the background from the observer’s point of view, the light from a distant source bends and amplifies, making it look brighter. This other galaxy magnifies the molecules in the galaxy, making it simpler to observe them.