This artist’s impression of SPT2349–56 shows a group of interacting and merging galaxies in the early universe. (Image credit: M. Kornmesser/ESO)

13 billion-year-old Cluster of Galaxies discovered by Astronomers

The discovery will help us better understand the Universe’s creation & evolution

Faisal Khan
Oct 6 · 2 min read

While it’s pretty easy to guess the age of a person but when it comes to the universe, it is a little more complicated. The light emitted by stars in the galaxies out there becomes a determining factor in predicting the age of a celestial body or the universe itself. Research suggests that the universe is 13.8 billion years old.

Galaxies are constantly being created and destroyed in the Cosmos machine. A recent discovery by astronomers revealed 12 galaxies that existed in a clump 13 billion years ago, which is about 800 million years after the creation of the Universe after the Big Bang. We are only seeing them now since they are so far away and their starlight is only reaching us now. So what we see of them is actually how they looked like 13 billion years ago.

The biggest of the lot named Himiko (mythological Japanese queen) was discovered a decade ago by the same team as reported by Live Science. The other 11 galaxies are, however, aren’t clustered around the giant Himiko, which is sitting at the edge of the system dubbed as a ‘protocluster’ by the researchers. Called so due to its age & smaller size when compared to other galaxy clusters we see in the Universe.

This is a significant discovery considering ‘proclusters’ like these are rarely found and therefore poorly understood —partly because they are too far back in time and hidden behind galactic dust.

Understanding these galaxy clusters and how it affects star formation gives us clues into the development of the ever-expanding Universe and its ultimate demise. The majority of the galaxies, like our Milky Way, turn up in high-density clusters spread unevenly across the universe. These high-density clusters are considered fertile grounds of new star formation as compared to their cousins in not so dense clusters.

As observed in the paper, however, this impact of clustering has changed over time — the star formation activity in the more recent high-density galaxy clusters seems to have slowed down as compared to thin clusters like the one just observed. This clearly outlines the fact the universe is in a constant state of flux and is our understanding of it.

Detailed research was published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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Faisal Khan

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