The most brilliant galaxy in the universe has swallowed at least three galaxies in its neighbor. The finding is important to determine if the galaxy glows intensively with other galaxies.
Dubbat W2246-0526, the super brilliant galaxy was discovered by NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) 2015. The galaxy is 12.4 billion light years away and has a frosted mature super massive black hole in the center. W2246-0526 is not the largest or most massive galaxy in the universe, but it seems 350 billion times brighter than the sun. Its extreme brightness has been a bit of a mystery for researchers.
New observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA) have shown that the astounding brightness of the galaxy is driven by dust drawn from three three smaller galaxies. Researchers have found distinct piles of dust that contain about as much material as the smaller galaxies themselves. The location and shape of the dust lines are also consistent with how the material will flow if dragged from one galaxy to another.
"It is possible that these feedfrences have already been going on for some time, and we expect the galactic party to last for at least a few hundred million years." Leader author Tanio Diaz-Santos from Universidad Diego Portales in Chile said.
Galactic cannibalism is not a rare thing. Researchers have long known that many large galaxies contain residues of smaller galaxies. When the galaxies go too close together, the larger galaxies remain intact and retain their shape. But less will be removed and become part of the larger galaxy because of its intense gravity.
"We knew from previous data that there were three companion galaxies, but there were no signs of interactions between these neighbors and the central source," said Diaz-Santos. "We did not look for cannibalistic behavior and did not expect, but this deep dive with the ALMA observatory makes it very clear."