Did you know that galaxies can die? They are apparently declared dead by astronomers when they stop making new stars. But a recent finding suggests that this kind of death is not the end of the road for at least some galaxies.
Astronomers have found mysterious, giant loops of ultraviolet light in aged, massive galaxies, which seem to have a second lease on life. Somehow these “over-the-hill galaxies” have been infused with fresh gas to form new stars that power these truly gargantuan rings, some of which could encircle several Milky Way galaxies.
The discovery of these rings implies that bloated galaxies presumed “dead” and devoid of star-making can be reignited with star birth, and that galaxy evolution does not proceed straight from the cradle to the grave.
“In a galaxy’s lifetime, it must make the transition from an active, star-forming galaxy to a quiescent galaxy that does not form stars,” said Samir Salim, lead author of a recent study and a research scientist in the department of astronomy at Indiana University, Bloomington. “But it is possible this process goes the other way, too, and that old galaxies can be rejuvenated.”