NASA has released a picture of the biggest cluster of galaxies found in the early universe. The object, located 8.5 billion light-years from the Milky Way, was discovered using the Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE).
This giant gathering of galaxies is believed to be the largest one found so far away from us. Its mass is around 1.1 million billion (1.1x1015) solar masses. The image of it (above) is a composition of near-infrared/visible light (blue and green) from the Gemini Observatory, infrared from Spitzer (in red) and radio light from CARMA (in purple). The radio emission is produced by the extremely hot gas residing between the galaxies.
The galaxy cluster is called MOO J1142+1527. MOO stands for Massive Overdense Object and they are classified in the Massive and Distant Cluster of WISE Survey, or MaDCoWS. And people say that astronomers can’t be funny.
MaDCoWS looked at the 200 most interesting objects out of the hundreds of millions photographed by WISE between 2010 and 2011.
"It's the combination of Spitzer and WISE that lets us go from a quarter billion objects down to the most massive galaxy clusters in the sky," said lead author Anthony Gonzalez of the University of Florida, Gainesville, in a statement. "Once we find the most massive clusters, we can start to investigate how galaxies evolved in these extreme environments.”
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravity-bound structures in the universe. They can contain between 50 to 1,000 galaxies, as well as intergalactic gas and dark matter. Galaxies tend to account for only 1% of the mass of the galaxy cluster.
"Based on our understanding of how galaxy clusters grow from the very beginning of our universe, this cluster should be one of the five most massive in existence at that time," added co-author Peter Eisenhardt, the project scientist for WISE at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The study was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The WISE all-sky survey mission ended in 2011, but it was reactivated in September 2013 as NEOWISE to look for near-Earth objects, such as asteroids and comets. As of August 2015, NEOWISE has discovered 211 objects, 33 of which are considered potentially hazardous asteroids.