For the first time, astrophysicists at the University of Kansas have discovered an extremely rare type of galaxy, which fundamentally changes our understanding of how the galaxies die. At the 234th meeting of the American astronomical community on Thursday, Allison Kirkpatrick presented his discovery of "cold quasars", incredibly bright, dying galaxies in the utmost reach of the world.
Quasars are basically mammoth supermassive black holes surrounded by large amounts of gas and dust, making them super clear ̵
Eventually the gas and dust begin to fall into the center of the quasas and blow out into space. Astronomers have speculated that this point is basically the end of a galaxy's life, when it has lost its ability to form new stars and becomes "passive," but Kirkpatrick and her team discovered that a small portion of these cold quasars were still form new stars.
The researchers examined the sky with X-ray and infrared telescopes and found 22 quasars at a distance of 6-12 billion light-years away and exhibited unusual signatures. They looked as if they were in the final stages of life when they were shown optically, but they still emitted a light, long infrared signature with much dust and cold gas in them.
During the press conference Kirkpatrick wrote if we can zoom in and see one of these quasars, it would be nice as a monk. In the middle of the galaxy we would see a dead zone, where the quasar has blown away most of the gas and dust. Around the outside we could find a star-forming region that is still abundant with gas and dust.
"These galaxies are rare because they are in a transitional phase," Kirkpatrick says in a press release. "We've caught them just before star formation in the galaxy was extinguished, and this transitional period should be very short."
Incredibly strong winds would move through the galaxy, so this period would only be for about 10 million years – a moment in the universe's timelines. Thus, these cold quasks are extremely rare, and it is an important step in elaborating how galaxies mature, live and eventually die.
Is this the ultimate fate in our own galaxy? Kirkpatrick believes it. However, it is 3 to 4 billion years away and we will have other problems then, like an expanding sun ready to swallow the whole earth.