Chandra finds largest galaxy cluster in early universe

Jan 10, 2012
Composite image of the El Gordo galaxy cluster. (X-ray: NASA/CXC/Rutgers/J. Hughes et al; Optical: ESO/VLT & SOAR/Rutgers/F. Menanteau; IR: NASA/JPL/Rutgers/F. Menanteau )

(PhysOrg.com) -- An exceptional galaxy cluster, the largest seen in the distant universe, has been found using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the National Science Foundation-funded Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) in Chile.

Officially known as ACT-CL J0102-4915, the galaxy cluster has been nicknamed "El Gordo" ("the big one" or "the fat one" in Spanish) by the researchers who discovered it. The name, in a nod to the Chilean connection, describes just one of the remarkable qualities of the cluster, which is located more than seven billion light years from Earth. This large distance means that it is being observed at a young age.

"This cluster is the most massive, the hottest, and gives off the most X-rays of any known cluster at this distance or beyond," said Felipe Menanteau of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., who led the study.

Galaxy clusters, the largest objects in the universe that are held together by gravity, form through the merger of smaller groups or sub-clusters of galaxies. Because the formation process depends on the amount of and dark energy in the universe, clusters can be used to study these mysterious phenomena.

Dark matter is material that can be inferred to exist through its , but does not emit and absorb detectable amounts of light. Dark energy is a hypothetical form of energy that permeates all space and exerts a negative pressure that causes the universe to expand at an ever-increasing rate.

"Gigantic galaxy clusters like this are just what we were aiming to find," said team member Jack Hughes, also of Rutgers. "We want to see if we understand how these extreme objects form using the best models of that are currently available."

Although a cluster of El Gordo's size and distance is extremely rare, it is likely that its formation can be understood in terms of the standard Big Bang model of cosmology. In this model, the universe is composed predominantly of dark matter and , and began with a Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago.

The team of scientists found El Gordo using ACT thanks to the Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect. In this phenomenon, photons in the cosmic microwave background interact with electrons in the hot gas that pervades these enormous galaxy clusters. The photons acquire energy from this interaction, which distorts the signal from the microwave background in the direction of the clusters. The magnitude of this distortion depends on the density and temperature of the hot electrons and the physical size of the cluster.

X-ray data from Chandra and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, an 8-meter optical observatory in Chile, show that El Gordo is, in fact, the site of two running into one another at several million miles per hour. This and other characteristics make El Gordo akin to the well-known object called the Bullet Cluster, which is located almost 4 billion light years closer to Earth.

As with the Bullet Cluster, there is evidence that normal matter, mainly composed of hot, X-ray bright gas, has been wrenched apart from the dark matter in El Gordo. The hot gas in each cluster was slowed down by the collision, but the dark matter was not.

"This is the first time we've found a system like the Bullet Cluster at such a large distance," said Cristobal Sifon of Pontificia Universidad de Catolica de Chile (PUC) in Santiago. "It's like the expression says: if you want to understand where you're going, you have to know where you've been."

These results on El Gordo are being announced at the 219th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas. A paper describing these results has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

Explore further: POLARBEAR detects curls in the universe's oldest light

More information: These results on El Gordo are being announced on 10 January 2012 at the 219th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas. A paper, "The Atacama Cosmology Telescope: ACT-CL J0102−4915 'El Gordo', A Massive Merging Cluster at Redshift 0.87" by Felipe Menanteau et al, describing these results has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

Related Stories

Cluster collisions switch on radio halos

Aug 30, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- This is a composite image of the northern part of the galaxy cluster Abell 1758, located about 3.2 billion light years from Earth, showing the effects of a collision between two smaller galaxy ...

The most massive distant object known

Apr 11, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Galaxies often occur in groups. Our own Milky Way galaxy, for example, and its local neighborhood with about fifty galaxies are at the edge of the Virgo Cluster, a collection of somewhere ...

Centuries-old math formula helps map galaxy clusters

Jun 09, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Across the universe, galaxies band together in clusters so huge it can take 10 million years for light to travel from one end of a galaxy cluster to the other. Probing these metropolises is ...

A galactic crash investigation

Jun 22, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A team of scientists has studied the galaxy cluster Abell 2744, nicknamed Pandora’s Cluster. They have pieced together the cluster’s complex and violent history using telescopes ...

Image: Einstein's theory fights off challengers

Mar 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Two new studies have put Einstein's General Theory of Relativity to the test like never before, using observations of galaxy clusters to study the properties of gravity on cosmic scales.

Recommended for you

Big black holes can block new stars

10 hours ago

Massive black holes spewing out radio-frequency-emitting particles at near-light speed can block formation of new stars in aging galaxies, a study has found.

POLARBEAR seeks cosmic answers in microwave polarization

11 hours ago

An international team of physicists has measured a subtle characteristic in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background radiation that will allow them to map the large-scale structure of the universe, ...

New radio telescope ready to probe

14 hours ago

Whirring back and forth on a turning turret, the white, 40-foot dish evokes the aura of movies such as "Golden Eye" or "Contact," but the University of Arizona team of scientists and engineers that commissioned ...

Exomoons Could Be Abundant Sources Of Habitability

Oct 20, 2014

With about 4,000 planet candidates from the Kepler Space Telescope data to analyze so far, astronomers are busy trying to figure out questions about habitability. What size planet could host life? How far ...

Partial solar eclipse over the U.S. on Thursday, Oct. 23

Oct 17, 2014

People in most of the continental United States will be in the shadow of the Moon on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 23, as a partial solar eclipse sweeps across the Earth. For people looking through sun-safe filters, from Los Angeles, ...

User comments : 12

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

kevinrtrs
1.2 / 5 (18) Jan 10, 2012
It's like the expression says: if you want to understand where you're going, you have to know where you've been.

So you'd better make very sure you know where you've been, then? Which of course makes it so much more important to know that the universe and everything in it was created by a vastly superior intelligence, who also created US. Hence if one knows where one really comes from, one will know where one is headed. Pick your origins very, very carefully.

How does this relate to the article? Well, the terrible reliance on dark matter and energy points to flaws in the original assumptions on which the big bang model is based. Examine the inference of dark matter and energy closely and one comes away with a feeling that philosophical directives are at the bottom of it all. Change the philosophy and the requirement for dark matter and energy disappear.
Callippo
2.3 / 5 (7) Jan 10, 2012
Change the philosophy and the requirement for dark matter and energy disappear
The dark matter and energy are conceptual proxies for experimentally verified facts. And IMO their names are choosen quite properly - they're just formed very diluted matter and energy - i.e. more sparse, than we use to think about it. In AWT every material particle is formed just with some space-time curvature - so why not to consider every huge space-time curvature a "matter"? Relevant info: http://www.newsvi...ace-time
Deathclock
4.9 / 5 (13) Jan 10, 2012
So you'd better make very sure you know where you've been, then? Which of course makes it so much more important to know that the universe and everything in it was created by a vastly superior intelligence, who also created US.


Interesting theory. I would like to see the evidence you have amassed in favor of it as well as a demonstration of it's predictive power. I would also be interested in a proposed method of falsifying it. Also, I assume you have an explanation for the origin of this "vastly superior intelligence", since it would be foolish to answer the question of origin with an entity having no explanation of it's own origin.
Callippo
1 / 5 (8) Jan 10, 2012
The hypothesis of Universe formation with God has some merit in AWT, because I realized, the very intelligent hyperdimensional omnipresent and omnipowerfull deity would appear like chaotic CMBR noise from our low dimensional perspective. The two dimensional shadow of rod regularly rotating in 3D would resemble a shadow of short randomly moving particle, because part of information about its motion is hidden in extradimensions of projection plane. For our silly pets our behavior would appear as random and unpredictable, like the the behavior of complex computer programs for many of us. The notion of God - which is so deeply rooted in minds of human - has therefore a quite relevant evolutionary root. But IMO it's just a consequence of projective random geometry. It just points to the duality of intuitive and deterministic description of reality based on belief and logical reasoning.
yyz
5 / 5 (5) Jan 10, 2012
The fact that this massive distant cluster was initially discovered using the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect points to the great power of this type of observation. Because the SZE is a scattering effect, the observed scattering is independent of redshift, making both distant and nearby galaxy clusters amenable to observation: http://en.wikiped...h_effect

The realization that distant clusters are comparably easy to locate using SZE observations has led to several wide-field SZE surveys conducted specifically to discover these distant galaxy clusters, with a much higher success rate than conventional *blind* surveys.

"The Atacama Cosmology Telescope: ACT-CL J01024915 'El Gordo', A Massive Merging Cluster at Redshift 0.87":

http://arxiv.org/...53v3.pdf

Deesky
4.7 / 5 (6) Jan 10, 2012
@Kev,
So you'd better make very sure you know where you've been, then? Which of course makes it so much more important to know that the universe and everything in it was created by a vastly inferior intelligence, who also created YOU perpetually ignorant. Hence if one falsely thinks he knows where one really comes from, one will not know where one is headed. Pick your origins fairytale very, very carefully.

How does this relate to the article? Well, the terrible reliance on a god points to flaws in the original assumptions on which the bible model is based. Examine the inference of dark spirits and the devil closely and one comes away with a feeling that philosophical directives are at the bottom of it all. Change the philosophy and the requirement for dark spirits and god disappear.
Aliensarethere
not rated yet Jan 11, 2012
What is the size of this fat cluster ? Can't find it in the article.
rawa1
1 / 5 (5) Jan 11, 2012
If the universe is of finite size and age, then the remote galaxies should be younger, than these closer one. Their density should be higher at the case of more distant galaxies and their mutual distance smaller in average. Their clusters should appear more dense and their galaxies shouldn't contain heavier elements.
Eoprime
not rated yet Jan 11, 2012
... would appear like chaotic CMBR noise ...


Heard this from you more then twice for fdifferent things.
It seems _everthing_ appear to you like CMBR noise.
rawa1
1 / 5 (4) Jan 11, 2012
CMBR noise is pretty significant in AWT: it's wavelength corresponds human observer scale. It the distance/energy density scale of both highest degree of complexity (human brain waves), both highest degree of randomness inside of observable Universe. It's manifestation of extradimensions of space-time, gravitons and gravitational waves, etc.
Eoprime
not rated yet Jan 12, 2012
...the distance/energy density scale of both highest degree of complexity (human brain waves), both highest degree of randomness inside of observable Universe. It's manifestation of extradimensions of space-time, gravitons...

Nothing more then some big words tossed together with no connection. I tend to think you are a bot. At least i could get the same theory out of some bots...

Edit: i want to second the question from 'Aliensarethere'
_How big is the extend of this blob?
yyz
not rated yet Jan 12, 2012
@Aliensarethere & Eoprime,

A 2010 paper on several ACT clusters gave an X-ray derived diameter of 2.5 Mpc (or about 8 million light years) for this cluster. El Gordo indeed!

http://peumo.rutg...pted.pdf