Small galaxies can form stars too

(ORDO NEWS) — The question of how small dwarf galaxies have contributed to the formation of new stars throughout the existence of the universe has long puzzled astronomers around the world.

Recently, an international research group discovered that dormant small galaxies can slowly accumulate gas over many billions of years. When this gas suddenly collapses under its own weight, new stars can form. The work was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

There are about two thousand billion galaxies in our Universe. While our own Milky Way galaxy contains between two and four hundred billion stars, small dwarf galaxies contain tens of thousands to several billion stars. Exactly how stars form in these tiny galaxies has long been a mystery.

Now, a research team from Lund University in Sweden has found that dwarf galaxies can be dormant for several billion years before starting to form stars again.

Using computer simulations, the researchers demonstrate that star formation in dwarf galaxies ends as a result of heating and ionization from the strong light of newborn stars throughout the universe. Explosions of so-called white dwarfs (small faint stars made up of a core that remains after normal-sized stars die) further hinder the process of star formation in dwarf galaxies.

However, the computer simulations used in this study are extremely time-consuming: each simulation takes up to two months and requires about forty laptops running around the clock. Work continues to develop methods to better explain the processes underlying star formation in the smallest galaxies in our universe.

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