Invisible light discovers the most distant cluster of galaxies

May 10, 2010
The image is 3.4 arcmin on a side (1 arcmin is 1/60th of a degree), which corresponds to 5,700,000 light years in the universe 9.6 billion light years away. The arrows indicate galaxies that are likely located at approximately the same distance, and these galaxies cluster around the center of the image. The cluster emits X-rays as shown by the contours. The circles show galaxies whose distances are accurately measured from the near-infrared observations and have been confirmed to be at 9.6 billion light years away. Though the number of the confirmed members may be small, the combination of the X-ray detection and the confirmation of massive galaxies unequivocally prove a real, gravitationally bound cluster.

(PhysOrg.com) -- An international team of astronomers from Japan and Germany has discovered the most distant cluster of galaxies known so far-9.6 billion light years away.

The hosts a multitude of . Galaxies are not uniformly distributed in the universe, but are arrayed in filamentary structures. Filaments permeate the universe and form a gigantic cosmic spider web. Galaxies clusters, where many galaxies live together, are often located at the knots of the filaments. The most distant cluster known - at least until now - is located some 9.2 billion away. A team of from Japan and Germany has discovered an even more distant cluster of galaxies using light invisible to human eyes.

The universe is a time machine; that is, you can go back in time as you look deeper into the universe. Astronomers have used this principle in search of clusters in a distant past. But, the expansion of the universe forces distant galaxies away from Earth at large velocities, shifting their light away from to . This shift makes the light from the distant universe invisible, which has impeded progress over the years. The powerful capability of Subaru's near-infrared eye MOIRCS, though, now enables astronomers to peer deeper back into the early universe.

Tanaka and collaborators found a candidate in a very distant cluster of galaxies in the constellation of Cetus. MOIRCS was used to measure the distances to massive galaxies in the candidate cluster. "MOIRCS has an extremely powerful capability of measuring distances to galaxies. This is what made our challenging observation possible," says Tanaka. The team succeeded in measuring the distances and confirmed that several galaxies actually have congregated at a distance as far as 9.6 billion light years away. He adds, "Though we confirmed only several at that distance, there is convincing evidence that the cluster is a real, gravitationally bound cluster."

Galaxy clusters host a vast amount of matter heated to extreme temperatures. Every material emits light; but at such high temperatures, the emission is so blue that the light is not visible to the human eye. The team used the orbiting X-ray observatory XMM-Newton to search for invisible light from the cluster. According to Finoguenov, X-ray expert on the team, "Despite the difficulties in collecting X-ray photons with a small effective telescope size similar to the size of a backyard telescope, we detected a clear signature of hot gas in the cluster."

The combination of observations in invisible wavelengths - near-infrared and X-ray - has led to the discovery of the cluster at 9.6 billion light years away, making it the most distant cluster known today some 400 million more light years away. The cluster is an ideal laboratory for studying the evolution of galaxies. Also, a collection of such distant clusters can be a sensitive probe of the origin of the universe. The team is continuing their search for more distant clusters.

The paper has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Explore further: The changing laws that determine how dust affects the light that reaches us from the stars

More information: "A spectroscopically confirmed X-ray cluster at z=1.62 with a possible companion in the Subaru/XMM-Newton deep field", M. Tanaka, A. Finoguenov, and Y. Ueda, The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Provided by Subaru Telescope

4.6 /5 (16 votes)

Related Stories

Massive galaxy cluster found 10 billion light years away

Jun 06, 2006

A University of Sussex astronomer is the lead researcher for a project that has led to the discovery of the most distant cluster of galaxies observed to date. The cluster, which is 10 billion light years from Earth, is also ...

Survey Reveals Building Block Process For Biggest Galaxies

Apr 12, 2006

A new study of the universe's most massive galaxy clusters shows how mergers play a critical role in their evolution. Astronomers used the twin Gemini Observatory instruments in Hawaii and Chile, and the Hubble Space Telescope ...

Shedding Light on the Cosmic Skeleton

Nov 03, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Astronomers have tracked down a gigantic, previously unknown assembly of galaxies located almost seven billion light-years away from us. The discovery, made possible by combining two of the ...

Galaxy cluster smashes distance record

Oct 22, 2009

The most distant galaxy cluster yet has been discovered by combining data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and optical and infrared telescopes. The cluster is located about 10.2 billion light years away, ...

Astronomers Find Hundreds of Young, Distant Galaxy Clusters

Jun 06, 2006

Astronomers have found the largest number of the most distant, youngest galaxy clusters yet, a feat that will help them observe the developing universe when it was less than half its current age and still in its formative ...

Recommended for you

ESO image: A study in scarlet

9 hours ago

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

Astronomers: 'Tilt-a-worlds' could harbor life

Apr 15, 2014

A fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah's Weber State University and NASA. In fact, ...

Pushy neighbors force stellar twins to diverge

Apr 15, 2014

(Phys.org) —Much like an environment influences people, so too do cosmic communities affect even giant dazzling stars: Peering deep into the Milky Way galaxy's center from a high-flying observatory, Cornell ...

Image: Multiple protostars within IRAS 20324+4057

Apr 14, 2014

(Phys.org) —A bright blue tadpole appears to swim through the inky blackness of space. Known as IRAS 20324+4057 but dubbed "the Tadpole", this clump of gas and dust has given birth to a bright protostar, ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

yyz
not rated yet May 12, 2010
Despite several recent claims to the contrary, the record holder is JKCS 041 at a distance of 10.2 Gly (z_phot=1.9). Discovery paper: http://arxiv.org/abs/0812.1699

APOD image: http://apod.nasa....028.html
abhishekbt
not rated yet May 13, 2010
has led to the discovery of the cluster at 9.6 billion light years away, making it the most distant cluster known today some 400 million more light years
away.


That's bad english.

More news stories

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

(Phys.org) —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...

Let's put a sailboat on Titan

The large moons orbiting the gas giants in our solar system have been getting increasing attention in recent years. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only natural satellite known to house a thick atmosphere. ...

How kids' brain structures grow as memory develops

Our ability to store memories improves during childhood, associated with structural changes in the hippocampus and its connections with prefrontal and parietal cortices. New research from UC Davis is exploring ...

Gate for bacterial toxins found

Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus Aktories and Dr. Panagiotis Papatheodorou from the Institute of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology of the University of Freiburg have discovered the receptor responsible ...