Vela super cluster, one of the biggest super galaxy clusters near the Milky Way, has been discovered by a team of international astronomers.
The cluster, undetected for long and masked by stars and dust in the Milky Way, was spotted by a research team of astronomers from Australia, South Africa, and Europe.
“This is one of the biggest concentrations of galaxies in the Universe – possibly the biggest in the neighborhood of our Galaxy, but that need to be confirmed by further study,” said Professor Matthew Colless from the Australian National University Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and a team member.
The study was published in the Monthly Notices Letters of the Royal Astronomical Society.
According to Colless, the Vela is massive and is at a distance of 840 million light-years from Earth. It is estimated to carry 100,000 galaxies with trillions of stars.
Colless also said that Milky Way — part of the Laniakea supercluster — is puny when compared to the massive Vela.
Speed Puzzle Of Milky Way
Now the new discovery may answer the retardation on the speed of Milky Way, which is Earth’s galaxy containing 100 billion or more stars with a mass of 400 billion suns.
“I could not believe such a major structure would pop up so prominently,” said Renée Kraan-Korteweg, an astrophysicist in the team.
She said Vela can offer hints on how Milky Way got to the current location in the universe and gravity of the supercluster can explain the variations in Milky Way’s measured motion in space and predicted patterns based on mapped galaxies.
It has been a puzzle for astronomers who assessed that Milky Way was not traveling at the expected speed or direction required by gravitational calculations done on galactic neighbors. They feel something has been pulling Milky Way though the entity was not seen so far.
With Vela having been detected, astronomers believe they have now found the answer.
“The gravity of the Vela supercluster might explain the difference between the measured motion of the Milky Way and the motion predicted from the distribution of previously mapped galaxies,” Colless added.
The observation of Vela was conducted with a slew of telescopes including the Anglo-Australian Telescope in Sydney and South African Large Telescope in Cape Town.
Importance Of Studying Clusters
Gravitationally bound Galaxy clusters are among the largest structures in the universe consisting of hundreds of galaxies spread in a not so vast area, usually limited to a few million light-years across.
One key feature of clusters is the big population of elliptical yet massive galaxies at the core. It is believed that these clusters formed stars a long time ago but not making stars anymore. That is a key area probed by astronomers while studying superclusters.