Astronomers using the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory discovered a titanic structure that lurked in the early Universe.
The Galaxy Proto Supercluster, also called Hyperion, is the largest and most massive structure discovered in such a distant time 2.3 billion years after the Big Bang
A team led by Olga Cucciati of the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) in Italy calculated the mass of the Proto-Supercluster to be more than 1 million billion (this is not a typo) that of the Sun.
Sure, there are other similar massive structures floating around today. But the scientists were surprised to find one in the early universe.
"This is the first time such a large structure has been identified at such a high redshift, just over 2 billion years after the Big Bang," Cucciati, first author (1
Hyperion was identified in the COSMOS field of the Sextan constellation by data from the VIMOS Ultra-Deep Survey – a 3D map of the distribution of more than 10,000 galaxies in the distant universe.
Its "very complex structure" contains at least seven high-density regions connected by filaments of galaxies; its size is comparable to neighboring superclusters, although Hyperion has a very different structure.
These giant groups of smaller galaxies are among the largest known structures in the cosmos. The Milky Way, for example, is part of the Local Group galaxy cluster (with more than 54 galaxies) – part of the Laniakea supercluster, which spans more than 500 million light-years.
"Superclusters closer to Earth tend to have a much more concentrated distribution of mass with clear structural features," said team co-leader Brian Lemaux, an astronomer from the University of California, Davis and LAM. "But in Hyperion, the mass is more evenly distributed in a series of contiguous blobs populated by loose galaxy societies."
This is likely due to the fact that nearby superclusters have had billions of years to collect matter into denser regions – a process that has traded in the much younger Hyperion for much less time, ESO said.
"Understanding and comparing Hyperion with similar newer structures can provide insights into how the Universe evolved in the past and will evolve into the future," said Cucciati, "and allows us to challenge some models of superclass formation.  "The exposure of this cosmic Titan helps reveal the history of these large-scale structures," she added.
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