Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Massive Galaxy, Possibly Largest Ever, Discovered

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2012 at 2:40 PM

Artists impression of galaxy at center of Phoenix Cluster.
  • Chandra X-ray Observatory
  • Artist's impression of the newly discovered galaxy at the center of the Phoenix Cluster.

A newly identified galaxy may be the largest ever on record.

Beyond being possibly the largest galaxy ever found by humans, it is also the brightest. According to, "The colossal galaxy cluster is also the brightest in X-ray light, and the galaxy at its heart apparently gives birth to more than 700 stars per year—hundreds of times as fast as our Milky Way forms stars."

The galaxy cluster is about 7 billion light-years away from Earth and is formally known by the alphabet-soup name of SPT-CLJ2344-4243, but scientists have given it the nickname "the Phoenix Cluster."

According to MIT News, Michael McDonald, a Hubble Fellow in MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, said that the Phoenix Cluster is also very much alive.

“Central galaxies have typically been referred to as ‘red and dead’—just a bunch of old stars orbiting a massive black hole, and there’s nothing new happening. But the central galaxy in this cluster has somehow come to life, and is giving birth to prodigious numbers of new stars," McDonald said.

McDonald said the galaxy may be able to produce so many stars due to rapid cooling. According to, the galaxy's luminous look is because of all the X-rays it sheds. This suggests that the Phoenix Cluster is also the fastest-cooling cluster yet known.

According to the Epoch Times, McDonald is looking to continue his research of the Phoenix Cluster using the Hubble Space Telescope.

“You’d see these fantastic blue filaments where stars are forming out of cooling streams," he said. "It should look quite remarkable, instead of our ground-based images, which show a blob of blue light.”

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