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

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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." ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.