About 2,000 people crowded around UC Riverside’s bell tower, many strung out in long lines to await the chance to squint through a telescope at Monday’s partial eclipse.

“It was wonderful, amazing,” said Robin Noriega, 54, of Riverside, who said she and her family enjoyed not only the eclipse but the party atmosphere of the crowd. “People were very generous and shared their glasses. It was a lot of fun.”

UCR astronomer Mario De Leo-Winkler was overseeing the four telescopes that were trained on the sun. He said he had expected only about 100 people to show up and was a little overwhelmed as he tried to direct his student volunteers manning the telescopes and keep the lines moving.

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Scientists Get Best Measure of Star-forming Material in Galaxy Clusters in Early Universe

The international SpARCS collaboration based at UC Riverside has made the best measurement yet of the amount of fuel available to form stars in clusters of galaxies located in the early universe

By  On JULY 20, 2017

The Tadpole Galaxy is a disrupted spiral galaxy showing streams of gas stripped by gravitational interaction with another galaxy. Molecular gas is the required ingredient to form stars in galaxies in the early universe.CREDIT: HUBBLE LEGACY ARCHIVE, ESA, NASA AND BILL SNYDER.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The international Spitzer Adaptation of the Red-sequence Cluster Survey (SpARCS) collaboration based at the University of California, Riverside has combined observations from several of the world’s most powerful telescopes to carry out one of the largest studies yet of molecular gas – the raw material which fuels star formation throughout the universe – in three of the most distant clusters of galaxies ever found, detected as they appeared when the universe was only four billion years old.

Results were recently publishedin The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Allison Noble, a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led this newest research from the SpARCS collaboration.

Clusters are rare regions of the universe consisting of tight groups of hundreds of galaxies containing trillions of stars, as well as hot gas and mysterious dark matter. First, the research team used spectroscopic observations from the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i, and the Very Large Telescope in Chile that confirmed 11 galaxies were star-forming members of the three massive clusters. Next, the researchers took images through multiple filters from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which revealed a surprising diversity in the galaxies’ appearance, with some galaxies having already formed large disks with spiral arms.

One of the telescopes the SpARCS scientists used is the extremely sensitive Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) telescope capable of directly detecting radio waves emitted from the molecular gas found in galaxies in the early universe.  ALMA observations allowed the scientists to determine the amount of molecular gas in each galaxy, and provided the best measurement yet of how much fuel was available to form stars.

The researchers compared the properties of galaxies in these clusters with the properties of “field galaxies” (galaxies found in more typical environments with fewer close neighbors). To their surprise, they discovered that cluster galaxies had higher amounts of molecular gas relative to the amount of stars in the galaxy, compared to field galaxies. The finding puzzled the team because it has long been known that when a galaxy falls into a cluster, interactions with other cluster galaxies and hot gas accelerate the shut off of its star formation relative to that of a similar field galaxy (the process is known as environmental quenching).

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