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il Gioiello Cluster: NASA's Chandra Weighs Most Massive Galaxy Cluster in Distant Universe

  • The most distant massive galaxy cluster, located about 9.6 billion light years from Earth, has been found and studied.

  • Astronomers nicknamed this object the "Gioello" (Italian for "Jewel") Cluster.

  • Using Chandra data, researchers were able to accurately determine the mass and other properties of this cluster.

  • Results like this help astronomers understand how galaxy clusters have evolved over time.

A newly discovered galaxy cluster is the most massive one ever detected with an age of 800 million years or younger. Using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have accurately determined the mass and other properties of this cluster, as described in our latest press release. This is an important step in understanding how galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity, have evolved over time.

A composite image shows the distant and massive galaxy cluster that is officially known as XDCP J0044.0-2033. Researchers, however, have nicknamed it "Gioiello", which is Italian for "jewel". They chose this name because an image of the cluster contains many sparkling colors from the hot, X-ray emitting gas and various star-forming galaxies within the cluster. Also, the research team met to discuss the Chandra data for the first time at Villa il Gioiello, a 15th century villa near the Observatory of Arcetri, which was the last residence of prominent Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei. In this new image of the Gioiello Cluster, X-rays from Chandra are purple, infrared data from ESA's Hershel Space Telescope appear as large red halos around some galaxies, and optical data from the Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii are red, green, and blue.

Astronomers first detected the Gioiello Cluster, located about 9.6 billion light years away, using ESA's XMM-Newton observatory. They were then approved to study the cluster with Chandra in observations that were equivalent to over four days of time. This is the deepest X-ray observation yet made on a cluster beyond a distance of about 8 billion light years.

The long observing time allowed the researchers to gather enough X-ray data from Chandra that, when combined with scientific models, provides an accurate weight of the cluster. They determined that the Gioiello Cluster contains a whopping 400 trillion times the mass of the Sun.

Previously, astronomers had found an enormous galaxy cluster, known as "El Gordo," at a distance of 7 billion light years away and a few other large, distant clusters. According to the best current model for how the Universe evolved, there is a low chance of finding clusters as massive as the Gioiello Cluster and El Gordo. The new findings suggest that there might be problems with the theory, and are enticing astronomers to look for other distant and massive clusters.

These results are being published in The Astrophysical Journal available online. The first author is Paolo Tozzi, from the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) in Florence, Italy. The co-authors are Johana Santos, also from INAF in Florence, Italy;

James Jee from the University of California in Davis; Rene Fassbender from INAD in Rome, Italy; Piero Rosati from the University of Ferrara in Ferrara, Italy; Alessandro Nastasi from the University of Paris-Sud, in Orsay, France; William Forman from Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge; MA; Barbara Sartoris and Stefano Borgani from the University of Trieste in Trieste, Italy; Hans Boehringer from the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany; Bruno Altieri from the European Space Agency in Madrid, Spain; Gabriel Pratt from CEA Saclay in Cedex, France; Mario Nonino from the University of Trieste in Trieste, Italy and Christine Jones from CfA.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra's science and flight operations.


Fast Facts for il Gioiello Cluster (XDCP J0044.0-2033):
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/INAF/P.Tozzi, et al; Optical: NAOJ/Subaru and ESO/VLT; Infrared: ESA/Herschel
Release Date  December 18, 2014
Scale  Image is about 3.7 arcmin across (about 6.2 million light years)
Category  Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 00h 44m 05.20s | Dec -20° 33´ 59.70"
Constellation  Cetus
Observation Date  6 pointings between 08 Sep and 24 Nov 2013
Observation Time  103 hours 13 min (4 days 7 hours 13 min)
Obs. ID  15093-15095, 16366, 16491, 16413
Instrument  ACIS
References Tozzi, P. et al, ApJ, 2014 (accepted); arXiv:1412.5200
Color Code  X-ray (Purple); Optical (Red, Green, Blue); Infrared (Red)
Distance Estimate  About 9.6 billion light years (z=1.579)
distance arrow
Visitor Comments (4)

Yes, that is true, however think of that light as a photograph. The light has traveled 9.6 billion years, unchanged. It doesn't evolve over time. A snapshot of what it looked like when it started on its way towards Earth.
If you could instantly teleport yourself to that location it would not look the same yes. It would be 9.6 billion years older than the last photo we had seen of it.

Posted by Mercedes on Thursday, 07.23.15 @ 20:52pm

I apologize in advance if I m asking something really stupid, and I know that space time is a difficult concept to grasp for me anyway, but I have a question. If the Gioiello Cluster is 9.6 billion light years from here - Earth in my case - then how can it be 800 million years old? The light we see from the cluster must have left it 9.6 billion years ago.

Posted by Jim Brown on Sunday, 12.28.14 @ 07:57am

That's pretty young Cluster... it would be nice to know how they actually form.

Posted by budy on Friday, 12.19.14 @ 02:48am

Interesting and educational website.

Posted by Edgar Alandete on Thursday, 12.18.14 @ 13:03pm

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