Astronomers Discover Most Massive Structure In The Early Universe

Posted: Oct 20 2018, 2:56am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 20 2018, 5:05am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Astronomers Discover Most Massive Structure in the Early Universe
Galaxy proto-supercluster, nicknamed Hyperion. Credit: Luis Calçada & Olga Cucciati/ESO

Galaxy supercluster Hyperion formed only 2.3 billion years after the Big Bang.

A team of researchers has discovered a previously unknown, extremely large proto-supercluster of galaxies from early universe. The cluster was formed just 2.3 billion years after the Big Bang when the universe was very young. The ancient proto-supercluster, nicknamed Hyperion, is the largest and most massive structure yet found at such a remote distance.

Galaxies are assembled to form larger structures such as clusters or superclusters. Galaxy clusters can contain thousands of galaxies all held together by gravity and they were believed to be the largest structures in the universe until the discovery of superclusters. A Supercluster is a chain of galaxies that extends hundreds of millions of light years and contains mass comparable to million billion suns. Hyperion proto-supercluster, for instance, is about one million billion times more massive than the sun. Finding such a massive object in the early Universe surprises astronomers.

“This is the first time that such a large structure has been identified at such a high redshift, just over 2 billion years after the Big Bang," said lead researcher Olga Cucciati of Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF) Bologna, Italy. "Normally these kinds of structures are known at lower redshifts, which means when the Universe has had much more time to evolve and construct such huge things. It was a surprise to see something this evolved when the Universe was relatively young."

Researchers used a novel technique to identify this gigantic proto-supercluster of galaxies located in the constellation of Sextans. The technique can analyze the vast amount of data obtained from VIMOS instrument mounted on ESO's Very Large Telescope in Paranal, Chile. VIMOS can measure the distance to hundreds of galaxies at the same time, making it possible to map the position of galaxies within the forming supercluster.

Researchers have found that Hyperion has a very complex and unique structure. However, its size is comparable to superclusters closer to Earth.

“Superclusters closer to Earth tend to a much more concentrated distribution of mass with clear structural features,” said project scientist Brian Lemaux from University of California, Davis. “But in Hyperion, the mass is distributed much more uniformely in a series of connected blobs, populated by loose associations of galaxies.”

Researchers suggest that Hypersion could evolve into one of the most massive structures in the local universe like the Virgo Supercluster that contains our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Such a huge cluster is extremely valuable for understanding formation and evolution of galaxies in distant universe.

“Understanding Hyperion and how it compares to similar recent structures can give insights into how the Universe developed in the past and will evolve into the future, and allows us the opportunity to challenge some models of supercluster formation,” said Cucciati. “Unearthing this cosmic titan helps uncover the history of these large-scale structures.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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