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Old 08-16-2012, 04:52 PM   #1
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Default Astronomers find record-breaking galaxy cluster

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(Reuters) - A massive so-called galaxy cluster, one of the largest structures in the universe, has been discovered about 5.7 billion light years from Earth and credited with setting several important new cosmic records, U.S.-based researchers said on Wednesday.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said in a news release that observations of the cluster, which has shown a prodigious rate of star formation, may force astronomers to rethink how such colossal structures and galaxies that inhabit them evolve over time.

Known officially by an alphabet soup of numbers and letters as SPT-CLJ2344-4243, the cluster has been nicknamed "Phoenix," after the mythological bird that rose from the dead.

That's partly due to the constellation in which it lies. But Michael McDonald, a Hubble fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the Phoenix was also a great way of thinking about the latest astronomical marvel.

"While galaxies at the center of most clusters may have been dormant for billions of years, the central galaxy in this cluster seems to have come back to life with a new burst of star formation," said McDonald, the lead author of the paper on Phoenix, appearing in the August 16 issue of Nature.

Based on observations from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the U.S. National Science Foundation's South Pole Telescope and eight other observatories, researchers said the center of the Phoenix cluster had been linked to the creation of about "740 solar masses" or stars a year.

By comparison, the Perseus cluster forms stars at a rate about 20 times slower than Phoenix.

"This is just an enormous rate," said Marie Machacek, an astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. She said huge clusters like Phoenix are thought to host thousands of galaxies and there was still a lot to learn about what goes on within them.

Supermassive black holes in the central galaxy of a cluster have long been associated with low observed star formation rates, as they pump energy into the system and prevent the cooling of gases needed for the creation of stars.

But researchers said the "massive starburst" seen in Phoenix, as it gave birth to about two stars per day, suggested that its central galaxy's black hole had failed to interfere with an extremely strong cooling flow.

"Stars are forming in the Phoenix cluster at the highest rate ever observed for the middle of a galaxy cluster," the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said in its press release.

"The object also is the most powerful producer of X-rays of any known cluster and among the most massive. The data also suggest the rate of hot gas cooling in the central regions of the cluster are the largest ever observed," it said.

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Old 08-16-2012, 05:02 PM   #2
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Default Re: Astronomers find record-breaking galaxy cluster

Science is great. When I was reading this it just made me think about what other kind of life forms there are in that cluster. There has to be a solar system exactly like ours somewhere in the universe. I imagine there is a planet just like earth somewhere in the universe.
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Old 08-16-2012, 05:10 PM   #3
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Default Re: Astronomers find record-breaking galaxy cluster

The more I read about the universe, the more I feel we know nothing about it. Like people believing the earth was flat. When we peer out into the stars and galaxies we covert those images in our minds to what makes sense, but in the end, I think there's more than what meets the eye.
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Old 08-16-2012, 05:30 PM   #4
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Default Re: Astronomers find record-breaking galaxy cluster

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Originally Posted by Meticode
The more I read about the universe, the more I feel we know nothing about it. Like people believing the earth was flat. When we peer out into the stars and galaxies we covert those images in our minds to what makes sense, but in the end, I think there's more than what meets the eye.

Only one way to find the truth.





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Old 08-16-2012, 05:32 PM   #5
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Default Re: Astronomers find record-breaking galaxy cluster

Quote:
Originally Posted by Meticode
The more I read about the universe, the more I feel we know nothing about it. Like people believing the earth was flat. When we peer out into the stars and galaxies we covert those images in our minds to what makes sense, but in the end, I think there's more than what meets the eye.

Maybe so, maybe Kolob does exist.
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Old 08-17-2012, 09:40 PM   #6
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Default Re: Astronomers find record-breaking galaxy cluster

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Originally Posted by RoseCity07
Science is great. When I was reading this it just made me think about what other kind of life forms there are in that cluster. There has to be a solar system exactly like ours somewhere in the universe. I imagine there is a planet just like earth somewhere in the universe.
One of the more interesting debates to me is- what is the most common shape of advanced life on other planets? Is it a porpoise or jellyfish shape, like you might have on gas giants (like Jupiter, Saturn)? Is it bipedal form, like we, the apes, and some other mammals have on rocky planets (like Earth)? From a physics and engineering standpoint, it sure seems like "bipedal" is the most efficient deal on G-class planets. Meaning there's probably an ass-load of planets across the universe that have advanced life shaped very much like apes.

Then again, confirmation bias. Always interesting to see how incredibly wrong we can be about a variety of things.
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Old 08-17-2012, 10:02 PM   #7
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Default Re: Astronomers find record-breaking galaxy cluster

Quote:
Originally Posted by Meticode
The more I read about the universe, the more I feel we know nothing about it. Like people believing the earth was flat. When we peer out into the stars and galaxies we covert those images in our minds to what makes sense, but in the end, I think there's more than what meets the eye.
I was watching a show on blackholes the other night. Amazing stuff as they try and find the formula that unlocks the keys to the mystery.
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Old 08-17-2012, 10:32 PM   #8
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Default Re: Astronomers find record-breaking galaxy cluster

5.7 billion light years away?! I doubt we ever reach that cluster in any time period of human existence.
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