New Delhi: Indian astronomers today reported the discovery of a massive supercluster of galaxies, one of the largest known structures in the universe that they have named Saraswati.
A team of six astronomers from Pune, Jamshedpur and Thodupuzha in Kerala discovered the massive supercluster, which resembles a wall of galaxies spanning over 600 million light years, an unimaginably vast region of the universe.
Massive superclusters are collections of tens of thousands of galaxies bound by gravity and represent the largest distinct structures in the cosmos.
Astronomers had realised more than three decades ago that galaxies are not scattered uniformly across the cosmos but arranged in clusters shaped like bubbles, sheets or walls and linked by filament-shaped structures, a pattern astronomers call the cosmic web.
The first supercluster, the Shapley Concentration, was discovered in 1989 and a second, the Sloan Great Wall, in 2003. The Saraswati is located four billion light years from the Milky Way galaxy.
“We’re seeing a structure that had already formed about four billion years ago, or at a time when the universe was about two-thirds of its current age,” said Somak Raychaudhury, director of the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, who led the team.
“This could push astronomers into rethinking about how such large structures form.”
Raychaudhury and his colleagues have described their findings in The Astrophysical Journal.