A massive cluster of young galaxies that are forming stars at rates between 50 and 1000 times that of the Milky Way has been found by astronomers.
The scientists, led by Tim Miller of Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Canada made the discovery after the South Pole Telescope – a 10-metre diameter instrument positioned at the Amundsen-Scott Station in Antarctica – detected a population of rare, extremely bright sources.
Using sensitive techniques to measure carbon monoxide and ionised carbon emissions, Miller and his team deduced that the brightest of these sources, dubbed SPT2349-56, is a “protocluster” of at least 14 forming galaxies.
All the galaxies are gathered together in what is, astronomically speaking, a very tight bundle only 130 kiloparsecs, or 424,060 light-years, in diameter.
Reporting the finding in the journal Nature, Miller and his colleagues say SPT2349-56 is uniquely massive and could be building one of the biggest structures in the universe.