Space is huge. And it’s expanding rapidly in every direction. To locate something, even gigantic, light years away is a feat in itself. Hence when NASA announced that they have discovered a galaxy cluster at 11.1 billion light years away, it was a moment to toast.
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A Galaxy, Far Far Away…
Scientists have been known to give rather complex names to bodies in space and this is no exception. The galaxy has been named CL J1001+0220 and is the largest known structure in the universe that’s held together by gravity, according to NASA. What’s more, scientists have noted that the discovery of this galaxy happened right after its birth.
This galaxy cluster isn’t just remarkable for its distance, it’s also going through an amazing growth spurt unlike any we’ve ever seen.
This was Tao Wang of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission who led the study, which has since been published in the Astrophysics Journal.
What’s the Big Deal, Anyway
Well, if you’ve still not been impressed by this discovery, let us go further. The study suggests the galaxy cluster may be undergoing a transformation from a forming cluster, known as a “protocluster,” to a mature one. Astronomers have never found a galaxy cluster at this precise stage.
A cluster of galaxies is a structure that comprises of anywhere from hundreds to thousands of galaxies that are bound together by gravity. They are the biggest known gravitationally bound structures in the universe. One of its key features is the intracluster medium (ICM), which consists of heated gas between the galaxies.
Among the distinguished galaxy clusters in the nearby Universe are the Hercules Cluster, Virgo Cluster, Fornax Cluster and the Coma Cluster. The notable galaxy clusters in the early universe and in the distant are SPT-CL J2106-5844 and SPT-CL J0546-5345.
This discovery, in effect, pushes back the formation time of galaxy clusters by about 700 million years. And all of this was possible thanks to the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, named after famous Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.
More Discoveries, More Studies
Since we’ve now established that this is quite a big deal, let’s also not argue around the fact that scientists will want to study this phenomenon in greater detail. The co-author of the study conducted, Alexis Finoguenov of the University of Helsinki in Finland, said –
We think we’re going to learn a lot about the formation of clusters and the galaxies they contain by studying this object.
This is only going to push scientists harder to look out for more examples like this. Every new discovery like this has led to a better understanding of space, galaxies and the nature of life itself.
Only a Few Drops Discovered
We’ve actually been able to discover and observe very little of the known universe so far. Some scientists have pegged this at a very negligible percentage. Alien life still evades us, but these discoveries are substantial nonetheless.