Space

Astronomers discover massive galaxy cluster 8.5 billion light-years from Earth

Image of the galaxy cluster MOO J1142+1527 spanning multiple wavelengths, comprised of images captured by orbital and Earth-based observatories
Image of the galaxy cluster MOO J1142+1527 spanning multiple wavelengths, comprised of images captured by orbital and Earth-based observatories
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Image of the galaxy cluster MOO J1142+1527 spanning multiple wavelengths, comprised of images captured by orbital and Earth-based observatories
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Image of the galaxy cluster MOO J1142+1527 spanning multiple wavelengths, comprised of images captured by orbital and Earth-based observatories

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.

Source:NASA

2 comments
Don Duncan
"...gravitationally bound galaxies...pick up more galaxies as they age..."? How? Wouldn't they have to do that by attracting them with gravity, which would mean the other galaxies were "gravitationally bound" also, abet more loosely? How close do galaxies have to get before they are considered "a cluster"? A definition would be nice. Arn't all bodies attracted to all others, everywhere in the 'verse? How is it that some very large clusters are getting bigger, but at the same time the 'verse is expanding, and doing so at an ever faster rate? Why are some bodies separating but others combining? It seems the 'verse is both flying apart and coming together, but that is contradictory.
TerenceKuch
Galaxies are believed to hold together and not be subject to the expansion of the universe. Other galaxies will appear to recede, but not stars within a single galaxy, from a viewpoint within that galaxy. - Does the same hold for galaxy clusters?