Chapter 28 The Evolution and Distribution of Galaxies

28.8 Questions and Exercises

Review Questions

1: How are distant (young) galaxies different from the galaxies that we see in the universe today?

2: What is the evidence that star formation began when the universe was only a few hundred million years old?

3: Describe the evolution of an elliptical galaxy. How does the evolution of a spiral galaxy differ from that of an elliptical?

4: Explain what we mean when we call the universe homogeneous and isotropic. Would you say that the distribution of elephants on Earth is homogeneous and isotropic? Why?

5: Describe the organization of galaxies into groupings, from the Local Group to superclusters.

6: What is the evidence that a large fraction of the matter in the universe is invisible?

7: When astronomers make maps of the structure of the universe on the largest scales, how do they find the superclusters of galaxies to be arranged?

8: How does the presence of an active galactic nucleus in a starburst galaxy affect the starburst process?

Thought Questions

9: Describe how you might use the color of a galaxy to determine something about what kinds of stars it contains.

10: Suppose a galaxy formed stars for a few million years and then stopped (and no other galaxy merged or collided with it). What would be the most massive stars on the main sequence after 500 million years? After 10 billion years? How would the color of the galaxy change over this time span? (Refer to Evolution from the Main Sequence to Red Giants.)

11: Given the ideas presented here about how galaxies form, would you expect to find a giant elliptical galaxy in the Local Group? Why or why not? Is there in fact a giant elliptical in the Local Group?

12: Can an elliptical galaxy evolve into a spiral? Explain your answer. Can a spiral turn into an elliptical? How?

13: If we see a double image of a quasar produced by a gravitational lens and can obtain a spectrum of the galaxy that is acting as the gravitational lens, we can then put limits on the distance to the quasar. Explain how.

14: The left panel of [link] shows a cluster of yellow galaxies that produces several images of blue galaxies through gravitational lensing. Which are more distant—the blue galaxies or the yellow galaxies? The light in the galaxies comes from stars. How do the temperatures of the stars that dominate the light of the cluster galaxies differ from the temperatures of the stars that dominate the light of the blue-lensed galaxy? Which galaxy’s light is dominated by young stars?

15: Suppose you are standing in the center of a large, densely populated city that is exactly circular, surrounded by a ring of suburbs with lower-density population, surrounded in turn by a ring of farmland. From this specific location, would you say the population distribution is isotropic? Homogeneous?

16: Astronomers have been making maps by observing a slice of the universe and seeing where the galaxies lie within that slice. If the universe is isotropic and homogeneous, why do they need more than one slice? Suppose they now want to make each slice extend farther into the universe. What do they need to do?

17: Human civilization is about 10,000 years old as measured by the development of agriculture. If your telescope collects starlight tonight that has been traveling for 10,000 years, is that star inside or outside our Milky Way Galaxy? Is it likely that the star has changed much during that time?

18: Given that only about 5% of the galaxies visible in the Hubble Deep Field are bright enough for astronomers to study spectroscopically, they need to make the most of the other 95%. One technique is to use their colors and apparent brightnesses to try to roughly estimate their redshift. How do you think the inaccuracy of this redshift estimation technique (compared to actually measuring the redshift from a spectrum) might affect our ability to make maps of large-scale structures such as the filaments and voids shown in [link]?

Figuring for Yourself

19: Using the information from [link], how much fainter an object will you have to be able to measure in order to include the same kinds of galaxies in your second survey? Remember that the brightness of an object varies as the inverse square of the distance.

20: Using the information from [link], if galaxies are distributed homogeneously, how many times more of them would you expect to count on your second survey?

21: Using the information from [link], how much longer will it take you to do your second survey?

22: Galaxies are found in the “walls” of huge voids; very few galaxies are found in the voids themselves. The text says that the structure of filaments and voids has been present in the universe since shortly after the expansion began 13.8 billion years ago. In science, we always have to check to see whether some conclusion is contradicted by any other information we have. In this case, we can ask whether the voids would have filled up with galaxies in roughly 14 billion years. Observations show that in addition to the motion associated with the expansion of the universe, the galaxies in the walls of the voids are moving in random directions at typical speeds of 300 km/s. At least some of them will be moving into the voids. How far into the void will a galaxy move in 14 billion years? Is it a reasonable hypothesis that the voids have existed for 14 billion years?

23: Calculate the velocity, the distance, and the look-back time of the most distant galaxies in [link] using the Hubble constant given in this text and the redshift given in the diagram. Remember the Doppler formula for velocity a for velocity v = c  x  Δλ / λ   and the Hubble law (v = H × d, where d is the distance to a galaxy). For these low velocities, you can neglect relativistic effects.

24: Assume that dark matter is uniformly distributed throughout the Milky Way, not just in the outer halo but also throughout the bulge and in the disk, where the solar system lives. How much dark matter would you expect there to be inside the solar system? Would you expect that to be easily detectable? Hint: For the radius of the Milky Way’s dark matter halo, use R = 300,000 light-years; for the solar system’s radius, use 100 AU; and start by calculating the ratio of the two volumes.

25: The simulated box of galaxy filaments and superclusters shown in [link] stretches across 1 billion light-years. If you were to make a scale model where that box covered the core of a university campus, say 1 km, then how big would the Milky Way Galaxy be? How far away would the Andromeda galaxy be in the scale model?

26: The first objects to collapse gravitationally after the Big Bang might have been globular cluster-size galaxy pieces, with masses around 106 solar masses. Suppose you merge two of those together, then merge two larger pieces together, and so on, Lego-style, until you reach a Milky Way mass, about 1012 solar masses. How many merger generations would that take, and how many original pieces? (Hint: Think in powers of 2.)


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