Wired - Astronomers examine one of the largest clusters in universe


Astrophysicists from the McGill University in Quebec, Canada, have discovered two giant galaxies connected by a filament of stars which appear to be colliding. When combined, this supercluster of galaxies could be one of the largest structures in the universe.

Using the Herschel Space Observatory and its single 3.5 meter mirror telescope in space, scientists are peering back in time to see two clusters of galaxies crash together. The McGill team hopes to shed light on how galaxies and clusters of galaxies evolve. There is a nature vs nurture debate among astronomers. Some believe that the evolution of galaxies is determined by intrinsic properties like the total mass. Others believe there is more to it, and wider-scale cosmic environmental forces will dominate the progression of galaxies.

"We are excited about this filament, because we think the intense star formation we see in its galaxies is related to the consolidation of the surrounding supercluster," said Kristen Coppin, a postdoctoral fellow in astrophysics at McGill and lead author of a new paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters.