GAINESVILLE, Fla., Nov. 3 (UPI) -- With the help of NASA telescopes, a team of astronomers have spotted a large gathering of faraway galaxies.
Comprising thousands of galaxies and located 8.5 billion light-years away, it's the largest cosmic structure scientists have found at such a distance. The thousands of galaxies, pulled together by gravity, each boast billions of stars.
Closer, older galaxies are even larger, having pulled in more and more galaxies over time.
Finding the ancient galactic cluster is made possible by NASA's WISE and Spitzer telescopes, infrared observatories capable of picking out the space-stretched wavelengths of the most distant clusters amid the chaos of closer radiation.
WISE paints the broadest pictures of the universe, while Spitzer helps scientists locate the most distant and sizable structures.
"It's the combination of Spitzer and WISE that lets us go from a quarter billion objects down to the most massive galaxy clusters in the sky," said Anthony Gonzalez, an astronomer at the University of Florida.
Researchers have named the giant cluster Massive Overdense Object (MOO) J1142+1527. Because its light takes so long to reach Earth, the object offers astronomers a glimpse back in time -- 8.5 billion years back to a relatively young universe.
Scientists are always looking for clues as to how the universe evolved, MOO and other clusters like it may reveal such clues.
"Based on our understanding of how galaxy clusters grow from the very beginning of our universe, this cluster should be one of the five most massive in existence at that time," Peter Eisenhardt, the project scientist for WISE at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"Once we find the most massive clusters, we can start to investigate how galaxies evolved in these extreme environments," added Gonzalez.
The new cluster is detailed in a new paper, published recently in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.