Washington, May 12 (ANI): Astronomers led by Texas A and M scientists have identified what may be called the "ancient city of 'modern' galaxies".
The group of roughly 60 galaxies, called CLG J02182-05102, is nearly 10 billion years old, and possibly the earliest, most distant cluster of galaxies ever detected.
However, it's not the size nor the age of the cluster that amazes the team of researchers led by Dr. Casey Papovich, an assistant professor in the Texas A and M Department of Physics and Astronomy and member of the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy.
Rather, it's the surprisingly modern appearance of CLG J02182-05102 that has them baffled - a huge, red collection of galaxies typical of only present-day galaxies.
Papovich said: "It's like we dug an archaeological site in Rome and found pieces of modern Rome amongst the ruins."
While its neighbouring galaxies appear vastly smaller and far fainter, Papovich says CLG J02182-05102 stands out as a densely populated bundle of ancient galaxies.
Enormous red galaxies at the centre contain almost 10 times as many stars as our Milky Way, he notes, combining for a total size that rivals that of the most monstrous galaxies of our nearby universe.
Before now, Papovich says, such a finding would be considered by many astronomers to be highly unlikely, considering the time frame in which they were found.
Papovich said: "The predictions are that these things should be very rare when the universe was 4 billion years old, and yet, we found them.
"Not only did we find them, it looks for all intents and purposes like they had already formed completely and evolved into the large concentrations of galaxies that we see in clusters today."
Exactly why these particular galaxies are fully formed that early is what Papovich and his collaborators - which include astronomers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the alifornia Institute of Technology (Caltech) as well as Carnegie Observatories - hope to one day uncover, but for now, studying CLG J02182-05102 could help them and other researchers better understand how galaxies form and cluster in general.
The study will appear in Astrophysical Journal. (ANI)