Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ghosts of the future: First giant structures of the universe hold 800 trillion suns

Date:
October 14, 2010
Source:
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Summary:
Astronomers using the South Pole Telescope report that they have discovered the most massive galaxy cluster yet seen at a distance of seven billion light-years. The cluster (designated SPT-CL J0546-5345) weighs in at around 800 trillion suns, and holds hundreds of galaxies.

An infrared/optical representative-color image of a massive galaxy cluster located 7 billion light-years from Earth. This cluster weighs as much as 800 trillion Suns. Galaxies with "old" stellar populations, like modern-day ellipticals, are circled in yellow; galaxies with "young" stellar populations, like modern-day spirals, are circled in blue. Images taken with the Infrared Array Camera on the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Mosaic-II camera on the Blanco 4-meter telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. The field of view is 4 x 4 arcminutes.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/M. Brodwin (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA) / Optical Image: CTIO Blanco 4-m telescope/J. Mohr (LMU Munich)

Astronomers using the South Pole Telescope report that they have discovered the most massive galaxy cluster yet seen at a distance of 7 billion light-years. The cluster (designated SPT-CL J0546-5345) weighs in at around 800 trillion Suns, and holds hundreds of galaxies.

"This galaxy cluster wins the heavyweight title. It's among the most massive clusters ever found at this distance," said Mark Brodwin, a Smithsonian astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Brodwin is first author on the paper announcing the discovery, which appeared in the Astrophysical Journal.

Redshift measures how light from a distant object has been stretched by the universe's expansion. Located in the southern constellation Pictor (the Painter), the cluster has a redshift of z=1.07. This puts it at a distance of about 7 billion light-years, meaning we see it as it appeared 7 billion years ago, when the universe was half as old as now and our solar system didn't exist yet.

Even at that young age, the cluster was almost as massive as the nearby Coma cluster. Since then, it should have grown about four times larger. If we could see it as it appears today, it would be one of the most massive galaxy clusters in the universe.

"This cluster is full of 'old' galaxies, meaning that it had to come together very early in the universe's history -- within the first two billion years," stated Brodwin.

Galaxy clusters like this can be used to study how dark matter and dark energy influenced the growth of cosmic structures. Long ago, the universe was smaller and more compact, so gravity had a greater influence. It was easier for galaxy clusters to grow, especially in areas that already were denser than their surroundings.

"You could say that the rich get richer, and the dense get denser," quipped Harvard astronomer Robert Kirshner, commenting on the study.

As the universe expanded at an accelerating rate due to dark energy, it grew more diffuse. Dark energy now dominates over the pull of gravity and chokes off the formation of new galaxy clusters.

Brodwin and his colleagues spotted their quarry in the first 200 square degrees of data collected from the new South Pole Telescope. The SPT is currently completing its pioneering millimeter-wave survey of a huge swath of sky covering 2,500 square degrees.

They're hunting for giant galaxy clusters using the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect -- a small distortion of the cosmic microwave background (a pervasive all-sky glow left over from the Big Bang). Such distortions are created as background radiation passes through a large galaxy cluster.

Surveying for this effect has significant advantages over other search techniques. It works just as well for very distant clusters as for nearby clusters, which allows astronomers to find very rare, distant, massive clusters. Further, it provides accurate measurements of the masses of these clusters, which are crucial to unraveling the nature of dark energy.

The main goal of the SPT survey is to find a large sample of massive galaxy clusters in order to measure the equation of state of the dark energy, which characterizes cosmic inflation and the accelerated expansion of the universe. Additional goals include understanding the evolution of hot gas within galaxy clusters, studying the evolution of massive galaxies in clusters, and identifying distant, gravitationally lensed, rapidly star-forming galaxies.

Once this distant cluster was found, the team studied it with the Infrared Array Camera on the Spitzer Space Telescope to pinpoint galaxies within the cluster. Detailed observations of the galaxies' speeds with the Magellan telescopes in Chile proved that the galaxy cluster was a heavyweight.

The team expects to find many more giant galaxy clusters lurking in the distance once the South Pole Telescope survey is completed.

"After many years of effort, these early successes are very exciting. The full SPT survey, to be completed next year, will rewrite the book on the most massive clusters in the early universe," added Brodwin.

The South Pole Telescope is an NSF funded project run by an international collaboration involving scientists at over a dozen institutions.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. K. Vanderlinde, T. M. Crawford, T. de Haan, J. P. Dudley, L. Shaw, P. A. R. Ade, K. A. Aird, B. A. Benson, L. E. Bleem, M. Brodwin, J. E. Carlstrom, C. L. Chang, A. T. Crites, S. Desai, M. A. Dobbs, R. J. Foley, E. M. George, M. D. Gladders, N. R. Hall, N. W. Halverson, F. W. High, G. P. Holder, W. L. Holzapfel, J. D. Hrubes, M. Joy, R. Keisler, L. Knox, A. T. Lee, E. M. Leitch, A. Loehr, M. Lueker, D. P. Marrone, J. J. McMahon, J. Mehl, S. S. Meyer, J. J. Mohr, T. E. Montroy, C.-C. Ngeow, S. Padin, T. Plagge, C. Pryke, C. L. Reichardt, A. Rest, J. Ruel, J. E. Ruhl, K. K. Schaffer, E. Shirokoff, J. Song, H. G. Spieler, B. Stalder, Z. Staniszewski, A. A. Stark, C. W. Stubbs, A. van Engelen, J. D. Vieira, R. Williamson, Y. Yang, O. Zahn, A. Zenteno. Galaxy Clusters Selected With the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich Effect from 2008 South Pole Telescope Observations. The Astrophysical Journal, 2010; 722 (2): 1180 DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/722/2/1180

Cite This Page:

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "Ghosts of the future: First giant structures of the universe hold 800 trillion suns." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 October 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101013122559.htm>.
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. (2010, October 14). Ghosts of the future: First giant structures of the universe hold 800 trillion suns. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101013122559.htm
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "Ghosts of the future: First giant structures of the universe hold 800 trillion suns." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101013122559.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

NASA (July 18, 2014) Apollo 11 yesterday, Next Giant Leap tomorrow, Science instruments for Europa mission, and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins