Found a protocluster of galaxies: its mass will increase 10 times

Astronomers have discovered a large reservoir of hot gas in a still-forming galaxy cluster.

around the Web Galaxy using the BigAtacama Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). This is the first time scientists have discovered such hot gas so far away. In addition, astronomers have gained important information about the early formation of galaxy clusters.

Clusters containing thousands of galaxiesare among the largest known objects in the Universe. They contain an intracluster medium (ICM) of gas that exceeds the weight of the galaxies themselves. Until now, ICM has only been studied in fully formed nearby clusters. Detecting the intracluster environment in distant, still-forming objects allows scientists to study the early stages of their formation.

Led by Luca Di Mascolo, researcherfrom the University of Trieste in Italy, scientists were trying to detect ICM in a protocluster from the early Universe. They focused on the Webweb protocluster, which appeared when the universe was just 3 billion years old. Astronomers used the Sunyaev-Zeldovich thermal effect. This is a change in the intensity of the CMB radio emission due to the inverse Compton effect on the hot electrons of interstellar and intergalactic gas. The effect is named after the scientists who predicted it in 1969. It occurs when light from the cosmic microwave background passes through the intracluster medium.

Researchers are discovering new galaxy clusters born in the early Universe. Photo: ESO/Di Mascolo et al/Hubble/H. Ford 

It turned out that the Web protocluster containsa vast reservoir of hot gas with temperatures in the tens of millions of degrees Celsius. Although cold gas had previously been found there, the mass of hot gas found in the new study is thousands of times greater.

Scientists believe that the Web protoclusterhas great potential. It will turn into a massive galactic cluster in about 10 billion years and increase its mass by at least ten times.

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Cover photo: Space Telescope Science Institute