Massive supercluster of galaxies in the early universe

(ORDO NEWS) — The structure of the universe is often described as a cosmic web of threads, knots and voids. The nodes are clusters of galaxies – the largest gravitationally bound objects known.

These knots are thought to have been generated by small amplitude density fluctuations like those seen in the cosmic microwave background, growing until they collapsed into the structures seen today.

The traditional search for galaxy clusters suggests that these objects have had enough time to equilibrate and the intergalactic gas has warmed up enough to be detected in X-rays.

But to identify the most distant galaxies and protoclusters that are too faint for X-rays, astronomers use their bright infrared or submillimeter radiation.

Supercluster SPT2349-56, discovered in the submillimeter range by the South Pole telescope, is so far away that its light has been traveling for more than twelve billion years.

It contains over thirty submillimeter bright galaxies and dozens of other luminous and/or spectroscopically confirmed star-forming galaxies.

It is one of the most active star-forming complexes, producing more than ten thousand stars a year. One of its bright sources appears to be a merger of over twenty galaxies.

The astronomers used the Gemini and Hubble space telescopes, as well as the IRAC Spitzer camera, to take measurements of the optical/near infrared flux.

According to the results, the researchers found that the stellar mass in this primordial cluster compared to the rate of star formation is close to that measured in nearby (“normal”) galaxies, suggesting that star formation processes are similar to those in the local universe.

However, the cluster is deficient in molecular gas, meaning that activity is nearing the end of such a turbulent phase, when the gaseous raw material for stars is dissipating.

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