The all-sky infrared maps created by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) 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 the University of Florida, Gainesville, who led the research program. The results are published in Astrophysical Journal.
Other authors of the new study include scientists from U.S. universities and Ichi Tanaka of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.
The team plans to use WISE data to hunt for more massive galaxy clusters. The first one they spotted (above) is located more than 7 billion light-years away, or halfway back to the time of the Big Bang. It is hundreds of times more massive than our Milky Way galaxy.
For more on the search, see the NASA press release.