Feeds

Does my mass look big in this? Roly-poly galaxy El Gordo more porky than first feared

Hubble gets an eyeful of fattest cluster on record

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Pic The latest data from the Hubble space telescope has shown that the furthest fattest galaxy yet spotted is 43 per cent more massive than first thought and was formed by two huge galaxies colliding.

The El Gordo galaxy

Galaxy with a weight problem, for astronomers at least

Galactic cluster ACT-CL J0102-4915 – nicknamed El Gordo (Spanish for the fat man) by astronomers – is seven billion light years away. It was first recorded in 2012 using the combined efforts of NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, and European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope.

Huge galaxies aren't unknown in the universe, but they tend to be a more recent phenomenon. El Gordo is the furthest yet found, and the Hubble data shows it is three quadrillion times the mass of our sun. NASA also reports that the viewing angle we have means El Gordo could be hiding even more mass out of sight.

"We can tell it's pretty big, but we don't know what kind of legs El Gordo has, so we need to have a larger field of view to get the complete picture of the giant," said Professor Felipe Menanteau, from the University of Illinois' department of astronomy.

Further complicating matters is that El Gordo looks to be the product of two massive galaxies colliding, and is still reforming into its new shape. Given how long it has taken its light to reach Earth's instruments, the Fat Man could be more massive than this new estimate suggests.

"We wondered what happens when you catch a cluster in the midst of a major merger and how the merger process influences both the X-ray gas and the motion of the galaxies," explained John Hughes of Rutgers University. "So, the bottom line is because of the complicated merger state, it left some questions about the reliability of the mass estimates we were making."

NASA is now rescanning the galactic cluster, and that will take a little time. El Gordo is so large that the Hubble has to scan separate sections at a time and then merge the images, and scientists have to account for the gravitational lensing caused by the mass of the galaxy.

"What I did is basically look at the shapes of the background galaxies that are farther away than the cluster itself," explained James Jee of the University of California at Davis. "It's given us an even stronger probability that this is really an amazing system very early in the universe." ®

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS
Clippy: It looks your hands are shaking, are you sure you want to commit this code?
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.