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Space Science

Record-Breaking Galaxy Cluster Found 246

The Bad Astronomer writes "Astronomers are reporting that they have detected the most distant cluster of galaxies ever seen: a mind-smashing 9.6 billion light years away, 400 million light years more distant than the previous record holder. The cluster, handily named SXDF-XCLJ0218-0510, was seen in infrared images by the giant Subaru telescope, and confirmed with spectroscopy and the X-ray detection of million-degree gas (a smoking gun of clusters). Every time astronomers push back the record for clusters, they learn more about the early conditions of the universe, so this cluster will provide insight into how the universe itself changed over the first few billion years after the Big Bang."
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Record-Breaking Galaxy Cluster Found

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  • by spartacus_prime ( 861925 ) on Monday May 10, 2010 @12:42PM (#32157564) Homepage
    Is this the new "Beowulf cluster?"
    • by DevConcepts ( 1194347 ) on Monday May 10, 2010 @12:45PM (#32157652)
      Nope! Ping time to long @ 9.6 Billion light years.
      • Nope

        19.2 + (not counting expansion of the Universe over 19.6 billion years, my maths don't go that high) :-)

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          FTA (Shock I read it!) - Might want to RTFA before you try to bring a joke down with math.

          But there’s more. Because clusters are so big and bright, they can be seen really far away. In space, distance means time; the farther away we see an object, the younger the Universe was when the light left that object. In the case of this newly found cluster, the light we see left it 9.6 billion years ago — making it 400 million light years farther away than the next-most distant cluster ever seen. The U
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Amouth ( 879122 )

            The Universe itself is only 13.7 billion years old

            and yet we still are looking for the expiration date..

            • and yet we still are looking for the expiration date..

              I'm just guessing here, but you probably don't need to worry about it ....

          • Re:Fascinating! (Score:4, Informative)

            by The Bad Astronomer ( 563217 ) <thebadastronomer@gmail . c om> on Monday May 10, 2010 @01:47PM (#32158832) Homepage
            Heh. Well, I was careful to state that *the light we see from the cluster left 9.6 billion years ago*. When you start talking about the age "now" and distance traveled and all that, things get sticky quickly. Relativity makes a mess of our sense of "now".
          • Hmmm... my fundamentalist manager insists that 6k years should be enough for anyone!
    • What a terrible joke!
  • i tried to consider what 9.6 billion light years was like in terms of distance. i mean, really, really tried to get a mental grasp on that scale of size

    and i couldn't do it, and now there's a trickle of blood leading out of my nose

    thanks a lot, slashdot

    i'll just go back to the simply mind-bending effort of trying to imagine the amount of indexed pages in google in terms of library of congress units

    • by Lennie ( 16154 )

      What I always think when I read these kinds of number is: but it's probably not there anymore.

      I mean it took billion years for that light to get here, but who knows what could have happend in the meantime. I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't exist anymore or was 'way over there' instead of where 'we' have last seen it.

      • To the best of my knowledge, the only thing that's really going to change the general makeup of a galaxy is coliding with another galaxy.

        Even give or take a few hundred thousand supernovas that seed the galaxy with heavier elements, It's still going to look pretty similar to us from this distance (assuming we were capable of looking at it at different periods in time, which we can not really do). The dense parts are still going to be dense. the sparse parts are still going to be sparse, etc.

        Unless of course

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Hatta ( 162192 )

        I mean it took billion years for that light to get here, but who knows what could have happend in the meantime.

        Given a known mass, we can predict how long a star will burn. A star with a mass roughly that of the sun will burn for about 10 billion years []. So any young suns in this cluster will have burned out by now. Anything less massive will burn more slowly, and anything more massive will burn much faster.

    • by ElVee ( 208723 ) <elvee61&gmail,com> on Monday May 10, 2010 @01:47PM (#32158834)

      If I did my maths right (and that's always doubtful), it's 3.14(+/-) million years away at warp 9.9.

      You might want to pack some extra snacks for that trip.

      • by jd ( 1658 )

        Pi! Hmmm, there's probably some mathematically mystical explanation for that.

    • it IS mind-smashing

      My first thought:

      Not surprising for those grumpy old people still thinking in naked arrays.

      Sorry, I'll show myself out.

    • and try to visualize the sound of one hand clapping. Or with the clap. Or something like that.

    • by glwtta ( 532858 )
      i tried to consider what 9.6 billion light years was like in terms of distance

      Not that hard to conceptualize - it's about 10% of Everything (if the current numbers for the Observable Universe are to be believed).
    • now there's a trickle of blood leading out of my nose

      So you tried, couldn't do it, and went to watch something more instantly gratifying like porn?

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Monday May 10, 2010 @12:55PM (#32157844)
    How far apart do your measuring points need to be to accurately triangulate the position of something 9.6 billion light years away?
  • Clusters? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Monday May 10, 2010 @12:59PM (#32157910)
    Do these clusters sometimes merge together to give birth to entirely new galaxies, and if so, what would that merging process be called?
  • Intriguing. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Monday May 10, 2010 @01:00PM (#32157940) Homepage Journal

    Pushing galaxy formation earlier isn't merely a case of getting a more obscene number. It's giving the models we use to analyze galaxies a serious work-out. Same with spotting ever-earlier stars. In the case of stars, we're pushing the limits of what existing models permit for star formation. If we go much further back there, then the models have an error. Which is good. Science gets booooring when the models are correct and everything matches predictions. Adventure, Excitement and Really Wild Things are only possible when the old models fail and have to either be re-tuned or replaced.

    (This is why the failure to detect Dark Matter was so important. Dark Matter is absolutely mandatory for certain models to predict correctly how the universe works. Failure in science is not a bad thing, it is an extraordinarily GOOD thing, as it requires people to revisit past assumptions and past data, to see why the discrepancy exists. It also requires scientists to develop new ideas of what to look for. Some things, we don't know what scale we should be looking at. The Higg's Boson is an example. We've a good idea the LHC will see evidence of it, provided all the numbers are right, but we can't be sure. Gravity waves are tougher - we really should be seeing those by now but aren't. However, all modern gravity wave detectors are merely oversized Michelson-Morley experiments, which Einstein demonstrated could never observe the theorized medium of the ether, no matter how accurate they were. It is therefore possible that gravity waves aren't detectable because the experiments are the wrong ones. It is also possible that they aren't detectable because they aren't there. What isn't possible is for both theory and experiment to be correct.

    The ideal in science is to find things that break the current model, but not by too much. Just enough to do interesting work, but not enough that they have to dodge apples falling upwards.

    • by tobiah ( 308208 )

      Totally. Dark matter, dark energy, relativistic gravity, the big bang, and an expanding universe are all theories which are increasingly in conflict with the empirical evidence. Seems like a good time to set the problematic theories aside and try interpreting the data without use of unsupported presumptions.

      • by jd ( 1658 )

        What a curious response. The Big Bang is entirely in compliance with empirical observation. The only issue left to be resolved is whether it originated as a singularity, the result of two membranes colliding, or the result of a Big Crunch in imaginary time (a proposal by Professor Hawking a while back).

        Relativistic gravity is a problem only in that it is IMPOSSIBLE for both relativistic gravity and QM gravity to be correct. Whichever one is right will automatically make the other wrong, and superstring theo

  • The aliens that inhabit SXDF-XCLJ0218-0510 recently discovered the Milky Way, and decided to call it SXDF-XCLJ0218-0510. This is going to get confusing.

  • by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Monday May 10, 2010 @01:16PM (#32158258)
    the first sentence. Felt like a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick.
  • I wonder if it can be modded to drift..
    • by Shag ( 3737 )

      I wonder if it can be modded to drift..

      We* prefer to think of it as "slewing."

      *Subaru telescope operator, but wasn't working those nights - just got checked out on MOIRCS last month.

  • If we're looking at the light source from something that was emitted 9 billion light years ago, how do we know the universe is still expanding? Isn't it possible the universe quit expanding and has been shrinking for the last few billion years? Would we even know about it if it was shrinking at the speed of light? What abou... [no carrier]

    • We'd know, because then objects that are 4 billion ly away would show a blue-shift.
      • You'd see a blue shift even if the universe was collapsing at the speed of light?

        • I'm having a hard time understanding the question. The universe expands at different speeds that depend on the distance from us. If you're asking about a collapse where all the objects are moving towards us at the exact same speed, and if that speed were the speed of light, then we wouldn't see them until they were right on top of us. But the physical model for that is difficult to imagine.
    • We measure the expansion of the universe, by the red shift of the late from galaxies. If we look at nearby galaxies (but outside our supercluster), we find there are still moving away, so the universe is still expanding. If fact the results of detailed measurements of galaxies red shifts and distances, show that the in fact the universe if not only still expanding, but that the expansion is speeding up despite the attraction of gravity. Sciencist have had to investigate the mysterious substance called dark
      • but if you're seeing red shift on stuff that took 9 billion years to reach you, isn't it possible for the universe to have expanded for 8 billion years, then now it's collapsing at the speed of light - and you wouldn't have any way of telling it's reversed course?

        • And what force, pray tell, caused a galaxy moving away from us to stop, then start moving towards us at the speed of light?

          Keep in mind that the answer isn't "gravity", because A) unless they started out going 8 times the speed of light, there's no way gravity slowed them to nothing over 8 billion years, then turned them around and sped up to light speed over just 1 billion years, and B) because closer galaxies aren't moving towards us, even though we are apparently a huge gravity well.

          If you say "a new unk

  • Toyota (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by DarthVain ( 724186 )

    Just be glad they didn't use the Toyota telescope otherwise it would still be going...

  • It is basically the light from our own galaxy, Milky Way, when it was formed. The light went out on a curved path bent by our own gravity and it has finally turned around and returned to us. Stop eating that burger. We dont want to get any heavier.

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