NASA Hubble Team Finds Monster ‘El Gordo’ Galaxy

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has weighed the largest known galaxy cluster in the distant universe, catalogued as ACT-CL J0102-4915, and found it definitely lives up to its nickname — El Gordo (Spanish for “the fat one”).

By measuring how much the cluster’s gravity warps images of galaxies in the distant background, a team of astronomers has calculated the cluster’s mass to be as much as 3 million billion times the mass of our sun. Hubble data show the galaxy cluster, which is 9.7 billion light-years away from Earth, is roughly 43 percent more massive than earlier estimates.

The team used Hubble to measure how strongly the mass of the cluster warped space. Hubble’s high resolution allowed measurements of so-called “weak lensing,” where the cluster’s immense gravity subtly distorts space like a funhouse mirror and warps images of background galaxies. The greater the warping, the more mass is locked up in the cluster.

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Image Credit: NASA/ESA


Seven billion light-years from Earth, two galaxy subclusters are colliding at a speed of several million kilometers per hour. While it is officially known as ACT-CL J0102-4915, the results of this collision are nicknamed ‘El Gordo,’ which is Spanish for “The fat one” or “The big one.”

El Gordo has earned its moniker. At 2 quadrillion times the mass of our Sun, the cluster is the largest known in the Universe. El Gordo was discovered by scientists at the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and is a place of many extremes. According to researchers, this cluster is also the hottest and gives off the most X-rays of all the known clusters in the distant Universe.

Stars make up only about 1% of the cluster’s mass, with the rest composed of hot gas that can reach searing temperatures of 200 million degrees Celsius. The galaxy at its center emits extremely bright bluish light and is believed to be the aftermath of a galactic merger. 

Researchers hope that studying El Gordo will unravel some mysteries about dark matter and energy. As El Gordo’s subclusters merge, the force of the collision slows down the gas but not the dark matter, wrenching them apart. This, as well as several other characteristics, leads researchers to believe that El Gordo formed in a manner similar to the Bullet Cluster (click here for info on the Bullet cluster).

Despite its extreme characteristics, El Gordo fits within current models of the Big Bang, though it is at the upper limit of what our cosmology can explain.


Image: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Rutgers/J.Hughes et al, Optical: ESO/VLT/Pontificia Universidad. Catolica de Chile/L.Infante & SOAR (MSU/NOAO/UNC/CNPq-Brazil)/Rutgers/F.Menanteau, IR: NASA/JPL/Rutgers/F.Menanteau 

Sources: 1, 2

Loud Like Love, Track 02

Series: DRAMAtical Murder
Pairing: Clear/Ren/Aoba
Genre: Various
Chapter Summary: A song to listen to when you need reminding of why you hide your face
Word Count: 4915
read chapter on ao3
start from chapter one

The day before classes, Clear was feeling confident enough to go outside and explore campus a bit. He left Noiz behind, who was still sleeping even though it was almost noon, and headed out.

There were still people bustling about outside, probably all the stragglers barely moving in the dorms, and there was enough chatter going on that Clear went by unnoticed. He didn’t particularly mind if people saw him since he had his mask on now, but remaining invisible was just a part of his norm at that point. On a bench outside, he plopped himself down and sent a text message to Grandpa about how he was doing before laying back, eyes roaming. For a few minutes, Clear was at a loss for what to do. He heard there was a river in the city, and if possible, that was where he wanted to visit first, but he wasn’t actually sure where it was or if it was anywhere near the academy.

After getting up again to wander around, Clear took a detour over near the actual buildings that held classes. There was one for the musicians, he knew, and an entire building dedicated to various studios for the dancers. There was a building nestled in the far corner that he wasn’t sure was for. Really, it was a lot more room for the students than he ever expected. He didn’t realize so many people were into performing like he was; in high school, interests like that didn’t matter. Interests like that that seemed to define your life weren’t important because trying to refine such talents weren’t completely imperative yet. It was all left in the background noise of high school. But being here was a completely different atmosphere, one that was open and full of possibilities, and a swell of excitement filled Clear’s chest again as he walked past the buildings.

Tripping over his own feet in the next second though. That was a little bit less fun.

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