Double discovery: Astronomers observe most distant galaxy cluster
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Posted 14 January 2011 - 08:24 AM
Astronomers have discovered the most distant cluster of galaxies ever observed and at the earliest stage of development yet witnessed. The proto-cluster - Cosmos-Aztec3 - is a burgeoning galactic metropolis that scientists believe grew into a modern galaxy cluster similar to the massive ones seen today.
Roughly 12.6billion light-years away from Earth, it is the youngest proto-cluster ever captured. To put this in perspective, our universe is estimated to be 13.7billion years old. Previously the most mature versions of proto-clusters had been spotted at 10billion light-years away.
Professor Bahram Mobasher, from the University of California, was one of the international team of astronomers who found Cosmos-Aztec3. He said: 'This is a galaxy cluster in the process of formation - a proto-cluster - more than 12billion years ago. 'This proto-cluster was formed about one billion years after the Big Bang. Study of such structures reveals how galaxies came together and merged to form larger galaxies.'
Professor Mobasher and his team identified member galaxies of this cluster and measure their distances and velocities. They also calculated when the proto-cluster was formed by measuring the spectra of candidates in the cluster using the Keck Telescope in Hawaii.
Most galaxies in our universe are bound together into clusters that dot the cosmic landscape like urban sprawls, usually centred around one old, monstrous galaxy containing a massive black hole.
Astronomers thought that primitive versions of these clusters, still forming and clumping together, should exist in the early universe. But locating one proved difficult - until now.
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