Farthest away galaxy cluster in early stage formation discovered

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Washington, Apr 2 (UNI) Scientists have discovered a cluster of galaxies in a very early stage of formation that is 11.4 billion light years from Earth - the farthest of its kind ever to be detected.

These galaxies are so distant that the universe was in its infancy when their light was emitted.

The galaxy proto-cluster, named LBG-2377, has given scientists an unprecedented look at galaxy formation and how the universe has evolved.

Before this discovery, the farthest known event like this was approximately nine billion light years away.

''When you observe objects this far away, you are actually seeing the universe as it was a very long time ago,'' said Jeff Cooke, a McCue Postdoctoral Fellow in physics and astronomy at UCI and lead author of this study.

''It is as if a timeline is just sitting out there in front of you. These galaxies represent what the universe looked like well before the Earth existed,'' he added.

Using the Keck Telescope in Hawaii, Dr Cooke detected LBG-2377 while looking for single galaxies. Scientists use light to look back in time. Because light takes a measurable amount of time to travel, detecting it on Earth today allows scientists to view the source as it was billions of years ago.

In case of LBG-2377, scientists believe the light has been travelling for 11.4 billion years, beginning just a few billion years after the Big Bang when the universe was only 15 per cent of its current age.

By comparison, the Earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago.

''We believe LBG-2377 is a seed that eventually will grow into a massive galaxy cluster,'' said James Bullock, director of the Center for Cosmology at UCI and a study co-author.

''Our finding suggests that this is a monster structure being born in a very bright, catastrophic event with a lot of gas and matter collapsing at once,'' Mr Bullock told Sciencedaily.

''We are not just seeing one solitary galaxy. We are seeing a bunch of bright galaxies coming together at the dawn of structure formation in the universe,'' he added.

The research by Elizabeth Barton and Kyle Stewart of UCI, along with Arthur Wolfe of the University of California, San Diego, was reported online in the bulletin astro-ph.

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