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Published: 12 March 2015

Surrey researcher contributes to ground-breaking research on dwarf galaxies

A paper published by arXiv.org reveals the discovery of celestial objects that may be rare satellite galaxies, which hold the key to understanding how larger galaxies form.

The research has been conducted by a team from Fermilab, one of the leaders of the Dark Energy Survey analysis in the US, in collaboration with the University of Surrey. A research group from the University of Cambridge has independently found the same celestial objects and published a paper with similar findings.

Third author Dr Eduardo Balbinot, a research fellow in Surrey’s Department of Physics, was involved in the search and characterisation of the new satellite galaxies. This was particularly challenging due to the very sparse nature of these objects and their location on the outskirts of the Milky Way. The newly discovered objects are a billion times dimmer than the Milky Way as they typically contain only a few hundred stars whereas the Milky Way – an average-sized galaxy – contains billions. The closest of the newly discovered objects is about 100,000 light years away.

Judging by the size, low surface brightness and location of the celestial objects, it is thought likely that they are dwarf satellite galaxies. Since these galaxies are dominated by dark matter, they could help to advance our understanding of the nature of dark energy – the mysterious force that makes up about 70 per cent of all matter and energy in the universe – and how larger galaxies are formed.

Dr Balbinot commented, “This discovery is extremely exciting. By looking at our neighbours we can understand more about our Universe and get clues of how large structures came to form in the Universe we see today.

“Using only a small fraction of the data that will be observed in the next three or four years by the Dark Energy Survey, we have succeeded in almost doubling the existing sample of ultra-faint dwarfs. We expect many more to follow in the next few years.”

The paper, ‘Eight new Milky Way companions discovered in first-year Dark Energy Survey data’ is published on arXiv.org.

The Cambridge paper is entitled ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild. Discovery of a large number of Ultra Faint satellites in the vicinity of the Magellanic Clouds’.

 

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