Giant Discovery: Astronomers Found a Massive Galaxy Proto-Supercluster in the Early Universe


There is a massive supercluster of galaxies that formed just 2.3 billion years after the Big Bang, and it’s 11 billion light-years away from our planet. Astronomers named it Hyperion after one of the Titans Gaia and Uranus created. The colossal cluster is the most massive one found this early in the Universe – it is so huge that it’s as massive as a million billion Suns.

Astronomer Olga Cucciati (Osservatorio di Astrofisica e Scienza dello Spazio, Bologna – Italy) stated that this is the first time astronomers identify such a large structure at high redshift, adding that:

“Normally these kinds of structures are known at lower redshifts, which means when the Universe has had much more time to evolve and construct such huge things. It was a surprise to see something this evolved when the Universe was relatively young!”

Cucciati and her team found the Hyperion proto-supercluster as it was forming in the equatorial constellation of Sextans. They also used data from the VIMOS Ultra Deep-field Survey on board of the Hubble Space Telescope. Combining the data from the zCosmos survey, the team defined the 3D volume of the structure, discovering some interesting information.

Hyperion has a similar size to the superclusters that are closer to Earth like our home supercluster, Virgo, which is believed to have over 47,000 galaxies. However, the structure is different – having seven density peaks connected by filaments of galaxies.

The Universe in the Past and in the Future

Astronomer Brian Lemaux (the University of California, Davis) explains that compared to the superclusters close to Earth, Hyperion has a mass “distributed much more uniformly in a series of connected blobs, populated by loose associations of galaxies.”

The team hypothesized that the superclusters closer to us had enough time to bind the galaxies into clumps and that Hyperion will also arrange itself the same way over the next billions of years.

Cucciati concludes that:

“Understanding Hyperion and how it compares to similar recent structures can give insights into how the Universe developed in the past and will evolve into the future, and allows us the opportunity to challenge some models of supercluster formation.”

The team’s research will soon be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.


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