Four new galaxy clusters discovered
Four unknown galaxy clusters - each potentially containing thousands of individual galaxies - have been discovered some 10 billion light years from earth.
An international team of astronomers used a new way of combining data from the two European Space Agency satellites to identify more distant galaxy clusters than has previously been possible.
The researchers believe up to 2,000 further clusters could be identified using this technique - helping to build a more detailed timeline of how clusters are formed.
"Although we are able to see individual galaxies that go further back in time, up to now, the most distant clusters found by astronomers date back to when the universe was 4.5 billion years old," informed David Clements from Imperial College London.
"This equates to around nine billion light years away. Our new approach has already found a cluster in existence much earlier than that, and we believe it has the potential to go even further," he added.
The clusters can be identified at such distances because they contain galaxies in which huge amounts of dust and gas are being formed into stars.
"What we believe we are seeing in these distant clusters are giant elliptical galaxies in the process of being formed," explained Clements.
The researchers are now looking to identify more galaxy clusters using this technique.
The research was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
(Posted on 13-02-2014)