First results from biggest galaxy survey presented

The results show galaxies in extraordinary detail

The first results from one of the biggest galaxy surveys to date, which show galaxy structures in extraordinary detail, were presented today by a team of researchers from the University of Portsmouth.

The findings are significant because they help shed light on how galaxies in the Universe form and evolve, and how the cosmos has progressed over billions of years.

The team presented their results at the National Astronomy Meeting 2014, the biggest annual astronomy event in the UK, being hosted for the first time at the University of Portsmouth.

Professor Claudia Maraston, Dr Daniel Thomas and PhD student David Wilkinson from the University’s Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation studied data taken from the fourth generation of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS IV) – an international project mapping the Milky Way.

Mr Wilkinson said: “We’ve used state-of-the-art modelling techniques to analyse the data of 20 test galaxies which have started revealing the internal structures of galaxies in unprecedented detail. This is an incredible breakthrough for cosmologists as galaxies have previously proved mysterious and tricky to research.

“This pioneering study gives a sneak preview into the potential of the SDSS IV project, which by 2020 will provide scientists with detailed data from 10,000 galaxies – 50 times more than any existing data of this kind.”

Galaxies are a curious mixture of dark matter, gas and stars, which can be a range of shapes and colours. Some galaxies are still actively turning gas into stars, while others stopped forming stars billions of years ago.

Mr Wilkinson said: “The origin of the variety of galaxies is still a mystery and a subject of active research in astrophysics. Our study of test data shows that some exciting results can be expected over the coming years that will take us a lot closer to understanding how galaxies form and evolve.”

The Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth is the only UK-based institution which is a full member of the SDSS-IV.

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