eso0502-en-us — Science Release
Rebuilding Spiral Galaxies
13 January 2005: Most present-day large galaxies are spirals, presenting a disc surrounding a central bulge. Famous examples are our own Milky Way or the Andromeda Galaxy. When and how did these spiral galaxies form? Why do a great majority of them present a massive central bulge? An international team of astronomers  presents new convincing answers to these fundamental questions. For this, they rely on an extensive dataset of observations of galaxies taken with several space- and ground-based telescopes. In particular, they used over a two-year period, several instruments on ESO's Very Large Telescope. Among others, their observations reveal that roughly half of the present-day stars were formed in the period between 8,000 million and 4,000 million years ago, mostly in episodic burst of intense star formation occurring in Luminous Infrared Galaxies. From this and other evidence, the astronomers devised an innovative scenario, dubbed the "spiral rebuilding". They claim that most present-day spiral galaxies are the results of one or several merger events. If confirmed, this new scenario could revolutionise the way astronomers think galaxies formed.