In the present universe, thousands of galaxies come together to form full-blown galaxy clusters. These clusters are the largest astronomical objects in the universe and are connected to each other, making up for the large-scale structure of the universe. However, astronomers have always been puzzled over the formation of the clusters in the history of the universe, which is itself, 13.8 billion years old.
In a ground-breaking research, an international team of astronomers led by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and including Imperial College London researchers, have discovered a new ‘protocluster’ that is being touted as the oldest galaxy clusters of the universe. According to the study, the 13-billion-year-old young cluster was already in the making during the nascent years of the universe and continues to form hundreds of galaxies.
During its origin, the protocluster, named z66OD started off as a 12-galaxy ensemble. It is located 13 billion years away. This implies that how we observe it today, was its physical form 13 billion years ago. It was spotted by the Subaru, Keck, and Gemini Telescopes that each have an impressive observation history in the past.
According to lead researcher Yuichi Harikane, a protocluster is a rare and special system with an extremely high density of galaxies distant from other systems, something which is not easily to find. “To overcome this problem, we used the new wide-field imager, Hyper Suprime-Cam on the Subaru telescope, and investigated a large area of the sky to make a huge map of the universe that included the rare protocluster,” he added.
The findings of the z66OD protocluster have already opened to new surprises. The team found that the number of stars forming inside the protocluster is five times larger than other galaxies with similar masses in the same period of the universe. They believe that this is because of the large amount of gas in the system, a galaxy formation-essential.
The team will probe the protocluster further using the ALMA telescope located in Chile.
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