Massive galaxy cluster found bursting with new stars

Astronomers have discovered a distant massive galaxy cluster with a core bursting with new stars, as it grows by feeding off gas stolen from other galaxies.

Clusters of galaxies consist of hundreds of galaxies containing trillions of stars. Galaxies at the centres of these clusters, called Brightest Cluster Galaxies (BCGs), are the most massive galaxies in the Universe.

“It is very exciting to have discovered such an interesting object,” said Gillian Wilson, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Riverside and a member of the research team.

“Understanding its nature proved to be a real scientific challenge which required the combined efforts of an international team of astronomers and many of the world’s best telescopes to solve.”

The study appears in The Astrophysical Journal.

The cluster known as “1049+56” was first identified from the UCR-led Spitzer Adaptation of the Red-sequence Cluster Survey, “SpARCS,” which has discovered about 200 new distant galaxy clusters using deep ground-based optical observations combined with Spitzer Space Telescope infrared observations.

“What is so unusual about this cluster, SpARCS1049+56, is that it is forming stars at a prodigious rate, more than 800 solar masses per year,” Wilson said.

“To put that in perspective, our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is forming stars at the rate of only about one solar mass per year.”

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