Treasure seekers have found the tow of an era, but it wasn’t in some mysterious island or ancient temple. Instead, it was in the heavens. Using two of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) remarkable space telescopes, researchers have effectively recognized what they were calling a “treasure chest” of ancient galaxy clusters, which is helpful in clarifying how the Universe came to be the way it is today.
According to a study recently published (PDF) in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, which explains how cosmologists used the ESA’s Planck space observatory to find the distant forerunner galaxy groups, and then poured over facts from the Herschel telescope for a closer look.
While Planck was in the space observatory to dig up the chest, it was the Herschel’s data that lead the experts to look carefully at each and every gold coin (galaxy cluster) inside. Now they are able to discover more about each coin’s make, mint, and its origins.
And that’s a huge step in knowing better the early Universe. Experts believe that it took them a long time after stars and galaxies first came to life to assemble into large clusters.
Once the clusters formed, their gravitational power caused the formation of new stars and galaxies. Dark matter helped guide along the process of creating stars. But how these large clusters were eventually assembled and developed remains unknown.
That’s why examining at some of the oldest ‘coins’ ever made – approximately 11 billion light-years ago – could be really helpful.
Dole said in an ESA release,”We still have a lot to learn about this new population,”. “Hints of these kinds of objects had been found earlier in the data from Herschel and other telescopes, but the all-sky capability of Planck revealed many more candidates for us to study.”
“Even when we combined the powerful capabilities of Planck and Herschel, we were only scratching the surface of the phenomena taking place at this critical era in the history of our universe, when stars, galaxies and clusters seem to be forming simultaneously. That’s one of the reasons this finding is exciting. It shows us that there is so much more to be learned,” added George Helou, director of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.