Washington, Oct 14 (ANI): Using the South Pole Telescope, astronomers 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.
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.
The study appears in the Astrophysical Journal. (ANI)