An international team of astronomers using the worlds largest X-ray and optical telescopes have spotted the most distant massive object ever detected, a cluster of galaxies 9 billion light years distant from Earth.
The cluster of galaxies is so far away that the light detected by the team is much older than the Earth itself. The galaxy cluster, if it is even still there, would be at least 11 billion years old now. "By capturing this ancient, 9-billion-year-old light, we have a snapshot of the universe at a youthful age of less than 5 billion years, which is about 1/3 of the present age," said project leader Christopher Mullis, a research fellow in the University of Michigans Department of Astronomy.
As exciting as it is to break a record, its also an important cosmological finding. "Just a few years ago, astronomers did not believe structures like this even existed at such an early time," Mullis said. This galaxy cluster, which is being seen as it appeared about 2 billion years after its formation, is well-organized and "mature," he said. Although it is very far back in time, it looks as if this structure had formed in a way that is consistent with more recent structures. "Even at this early stage in cosmic history, this appears already as a mature, fully assembled structure which implies that this is an old cluster in a young universe," said European Southern Observatory astronomer Piero Rosati, who collaborated on the study.
Karl Leif Bates | EurekAlert!
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