Astronomers discover massive galaxy cluster 8.5 billion light-years from Earth
Astronomers havediscovered a massive galaxy cluster located an impressive 8.5 billionlight-years from Earth. It is hoped that further analysis of thecluster, which has been imaginatively named Massive OverdenseObject (MOO) J1142+1527 (MOO J1142+1527), will allow scientists toshed some light on the evolution of some of the largest structures inour Universe.
Galaxy clusters areformed of thousands of separate, gravitationally bound galaxies, thatare believed to get larger and pick up more galaxies as they age, ina snowball effect. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is itself nestledin the furthest reaches of a galaxy cluster known as Laniakea.
MOO J1142+1527 wasfirst discovered via astronomers analyzing data harvested by theSpitzer and WISE orbital telescopes. The infrared capabilities of thetelescopes allow them to easily separate foreground and backgroundclusters in the infrared spectrum, as distant structures appearred, while closer galaxies and clusters show up as white.
An initial analysis ofWISE data turned up hundreds of millions of objects captured by thetelescope between 2010-2011. More detailed data from NASA's Spitzertelescope subsequently narrowed the spread of potentially significantgalactic clusters to around 200.
Having recognized theextreme nature of MOO J1142+1527, astronomers tasked ground basedobservatories to characterize the precise distance and mass of thecluster. It was discovered that the vast galactic structure hada mass the equivalent of a quadrillion times that of our Sun, and sat8.5 billion light-years from Earth.
"Based on ourunderstanding of how galaxy clusters grow from the very beginning ofour universe, this cluster should be one of the five most massive inexistence at that time," states co-author of the paper on thediscovery Peter Eisenhardt, project scientist for WISE at NASA's JetPropulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
The extreme distance ofMOO J1142+1527 makes it ideally suited for observations focussed ondiscerning the evolutionary paths of the enormous galacticstructures. Astronomers can study the cluster exactly as it was 8.5billion years ago, when the light we are detecting today was firstcreated by MOO J1142+1527
Looking forward, theteam of astronomers will attempt to use the Spitzer telescope toisolate the largest of the distant clusters out of the 1,700remaining candidates.
A paper on thediscovery has been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.