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Astronomers Examine one of the Largest Clusters in Universe

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Large Galaxie Supercluster

(Best Syndication News) Astrophysicists from the McGill University in Quebec, Canada, have discovered two giant galaxy clusters which appear to be colliding connected by a filament of stars . When combined, this supercluster of galaxies could be one of the largest structures in the universe.

Using the Herschel Space Observatory and its single 3.5 meter mirror telescope in space, scientists are peering back in time to see two clusters of galaxies crash together. The McGill team hopes to shed light on how galaxies and clusters of galaxies evolve.

There is a nature vs nurture debate among astronomers. Some believe that the evolution of galaxies is determined by intrinsic properties like the total mass. Others believe there is more to it, and wider-scale cosmic environmental forces will dominate the progression of galaxies.

They have their telescopes trained on a set of two of three superclusters that make up RCS2319. The clusters are connected by a filament of galaxies that is spitting out stars at the rate of 1,000 per year. Compared to the paltry one-star per year rate of the Milky Way Galaxy, this generation of stars is high-speed.

RCS2319 is approximately seven billion light years away from earth and the filament connecting them spans about 8 million light years.

"We are excited about this filament, because we think the intense star formation we see in its galaxies is related to the consolidation of the surrounding supercluster," said Kristen Coppin, a postdoctoral fellow in astrophysics at McGill and lead author of a new paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Coppin may have to wait a while to see what happens though. McGill scientists say that it will likely take seven or eight billion years for galaxies of RCS2319 to migrate towards the center of the emerging supercluster.

"This luminous bridge of star formation gives us a snapshot of how the evolution of cosmic structure on very large scales affects the evolution of the individual galaxies trapped within it," said Jim Geach at McGill, a co-author of the research paper.

Geach believes we are seeing the cluster formation at a critical stage. "The galaxies we are seeing as starbursts in RCS2319 are destined to become dead galaxies in the gravitational grip of one of the most massive structures in the universe."

By: Julie Marcus
Science Reporter

Photo courtesy of the European Space Agency and McGill University - A Star-Bursting Filament

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