Little Telescope Spies Gigantic Galaxy Clusters


Distant galaxy cluster found by WISE. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/WIYN/Subaru

Distant galaxy cluster found by WISE. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/WIYN/Subaru

Our solar system, with its colorful collection of planets, asteroids and comets, is a fleck in the grander cosmos. Hundreds of billions of solar systems are thought to reside in our Milky Way galaxy, which is itself just a drop in a sea of galaxies.

The rarest and largest of galaxy groupings, called galaxy clusters, can be the hardest to find. That’s where NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) can help. The mission’s all-sky infrared maps have revealed one distant galaxy cluster and are expected to uncover thousands more. These massive structures are collections of up to thousands of galaxies bound together by gravity. They were born out of seeds of matter formed in the very early universe, and grew rapidly by a process called inflation.

“One of the key questions in cosmology is how did the first bumps and wiggles in the distribution of matter in our universe rapidly evolve into the massive structures of galaxies we see today,” said Anthony Gonzalez of University of Florida, Gainesville, who led the research program. The results are published in the Astrophysical Journal. “By uncovering the most massive of galaxy clusters billions of light-years away with WISE, we can test theories of the universe’s early inflation period.”

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-388

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