Astronomers found a galaxy with a heartbeat and are now studying the phenomenon to gather more information about pulsating stars. A team of researchers studied a galaxy located 53 million light-years away from Earth known as M87 and discovered that it was showing pulsations.
According to scientists, galaxies actually appear to be shimmering because of the massive pulsating stars within them, despite many people thinking of them as steady sources of light in the sky. Stars begin to increase and decrease their brightness periodically every few hundred years. This happens towards the end of their lives and it is an important phenomenon to study, as the Milky Way contains many stars that are known to be at this stage of their lives.
This is the first opportunity scientists have had to measure the effect of the pulsating stars, which in this case are older red stars and to observe how this pulsation impacts the star’s surrounding galaxy. It seems that in these distant galaxies, the light of the pulsating stars often mixes with the sea of steady lights formed by the stars surrounding them.
However they were so bright and their pulsations were so strong that scientists were able to identify them even when they could not separate their light from the lights of the stars around them. In the later part of their lives, these stars become very bright and grow tremendously in size, engulfing planets that fall within their range, which is roughly that of the distance between Earth and the Sun.
According to researchers, studying these stars is, in a way, like taking the pulse of the Universe and it is important to continue searching for such stars in other galaxies, so their respective pulses can be studied. The models that the scientists have been working on show that younger galaxies may contain stronger pulsations and it would be essential to put that finding to the test.
During their work the researchers relied on a series of images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope back in 2006 over a period of 3 months. The unique images were taken in the Virgo constellation and were o galaxy M87. After analyzing the images the astronomers realized that 25 percent of the pixels in the images on M87 went up and down in brightness, resembling a heartbeat in the galaxy, which showed a pulse every 270 days.
Researchers will now concentrate on studying other distant galaxies in order to find similar stars and, by studying their pulsations, manage to slowly find the pulse of our universe.
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