The composite image at left, taken in visible and near-infrared light, reveals the location of five galaxies clustered together just 600 million years after the Universe’s birth in the Big Bang. The circles pinpoint the galaxies. (Photo : NASA, ESA, M. Trenti)
Galaxy clusters are enormous themselves spanning from hundreds to thousands of galaxies in size and requiring of light years to travel from one end to the other.
As hard to fathom just how enormous these may be, a multi-institution team led by MIT researchers has announced the identification of the most massive and luminous galaxy discovered to date.
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The galaxy cluster that was said to be located some seven billion light-years away also possesses a scientific name: SPT-CLJ2344-4243. Researchers, however, decided to call it a friendly, 'Phoenix cluster', based on the constellation in which it was found.
Just to get further idea to how massive the cluster is, MIT news mentioned that most galaxy clusters normally produce a few stars annually. Phoenix, on the other hand, produces 740 per year and is thought to be one of the most massive in the universe.
Galaxy Clusters normally possess central galaxies which as the name suggests are galaxies located at the center of the cluster, and while the Phoenix also possesses one, the activity that occurs in it makes it even more extraordinary when compared to the others.
Michael McDonald, the main writer of the research paper on Phoenix shared some comments regarding the cluster's extraordinary nature.
"Central galaxies have typically been referred to as 'red and dead' - just a bunch of old stars orbiting a massive black hole, and there's nothing new happening, but the central galaxy in this cluster has somehow come to life, and is giving birth to prodigious numbers of new stars," he said according to MIT News.
Discovered in 2010
Phoenix was discovered back in 2010 through the 10-meter South Pole telescope (Antarctica) and was later captured as an image by 10 different telescopes in space and from the ground.
The discovery of such colossal cluster may shed further light on theories that deal with how such bodies evolve over time and in return help us better understand what goes on beyond our galaxy, the Milky way.
McDonald now hopes to further study the cluster using the Hubble telescope and obtain further details on the activity that goes on in the cluster.
McDonald and the rest of the team's research will be published this week in the August 16 issue of Nature.