Scientists Reveal the Secret of the Giant Space Blob
LAB-1 is a star factory.
According to a release by the ESO (European Southern Observatory):
They then combined the ALMA images with observations from the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument mounted on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT), which map the Lyman-alpha light. This showed that the ALMA sources are located in the very heart of the Lyman-alpha Blob, where they are forming stars at a rate over 100 times that of the Milky Way.
It turns out LAB-1 is a giant cloud of hydrogen gas stretching hundreds of thousands of light years, with two huge galaxies contained within it. These two galaxies are almost colliding with each other, and they're undergoing a "frenzy of star formation." But that's not all: around these two galaxies are a swarm of smaller galaxies, who appear to be projecting material inward, giving the whole process more fuel to run. The faint light we see from the blob (which took 1.5 billion years to reach us) is actually UV radiation whose wavelength has stretched out so much that it's actually visible...and green. Here's how scientist Jim Geach (one of the authors on the new study on LAB-1) describes it:
That is, quite possibly, the coolest thing ever. Here's a handy image from the ESO's release, which explains the whole thing a bit more:
What makes this discovery important is that it gives astronomers some insight into galaxy formation, one of the most complicated processes in the universe. What's going on in LAB-1 could serve as a model for how galaxies behave, grow, and function, and the radiation from all that star formation allows astronomers to see it happen. Compared to galaxies, making stars is easy.