500 trillion Suns: Astronomers weigh extremely massive & young galaxy cluster

This multi-wavelength image shows this galaxy cluster, called IDCS J1426.5+3508 in X-rays from the Chandra X-ray Observatory in blue, visible light from the Hubble Space Telescope in green, and infrared light from the Spitzer Space Telescope in red © nasa.gov
Pushing the boundaries of what is known about galaxies’ formation and evolution, astronomers have weighed a rare massive young galaxy cluster using three of NASA’s observatories.

At the weight of 500 trillion Suns, the IDCS J1426.5+3508 (IDCS 1426 for short) located 10 billion light years from Earth is the most massive galaxy cluster detected at such an early age.

“This object has important implications for understanding how these mega-structures formed and evolved early in the Universe,” the statement said, noting that astronomers have observed IDCS 1426 when the universe was only 3.8 billion years old, less than a third of its current age.

In their study astronomers used data from three of NASA’s Great Observatories – the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Their findings were summed up in a NASA press release and detailed in the Astrophysical Journal.

In addition, new data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory showed that that about 90 percent of the mass of the cluster is in the form of dark matter. The mysterious substance cannot be seen with telescopes but accounts for most of the matter in the universe. It has been so far detected by scientists only through its gravitational pull on normal matter composed of atoms.

According to the observations, the cluster formed very rapidly and quickly in the early Universe. They explained that on the images there is a region of bright X-ray emission (seen as blue-white) slightly dislodged from the middle of the cluster. This suggests that the cluster has had a collision or interaction with another massive system, which have been common early in the history of the Universe.

“We are really pushing the boundaries with this discovery,” said Mark Brodwin of the University of Missouri at Kansas City, who led the study.

While the existence of the cluster and its parameters do not contradict the standard model of cosmology, it “sets a high bar for theories that attempt to explain how clusters and galaxies evolve.”