It has been recently reported that NASA measured the “El Gordo” cluster of galaxies, the largest cluster of galaxies known to the space agency and found that the cluster holds true to its name. The formal name of the cluster is ACT-CLJ0101-4914, but its appropriate nickname is the spanish phrase El Gordo, translated to, ” the fat one.”
A team of NASA astronomers have determined the galaxy cluster has a mass reaching nearly 3 million billion times the mass of the sun. By measuring the amounts of which the cluster’s gravity warps the image of galaxies in the distant background, the Hubble space telescope has determined that the “El Gordo” galaxy cluster, which is roughly 9.7 billion light years away from Earth, is approximately 43 percent more massive than the space agency’s previous estimates. That is to say, NASA used the Hubble telescope to measure how strong the mass of the galaxy cluster warped space. The “El Gordo” galaxy cluster has an immense gravity that warps space like a distorted funhouse mirror, bending the horizon of background galaxies. NASA astronomers agree, the greater the warping of the image, the greater the mass locked within the cluster of galaxies.
The “El Gordo” galaxy cluster has a fraction of its mass locked up with several hundred galaxies with a larger fraction is within hot gas that fills the entire volume of the cluster. The rest of the encompassing cluster is tied up with dark matter, an invisible form of matter that creates the majority of the mass compiling the universe. NASA has uncovered these realities when the space agency measured “El Gordo,” the largest cluster of galaxies to date.
Although NASA astronomers know that equally massive clusters of galaxies are found in relatively close part of the nearby universe, like the Bullet galaxy cluster, no galaxy cluster has been found to have developed so far back in time. The “El Gordo” galaxy cluster has estimated to have existed when the universe was at the ripe age of 13.8 billion years old, and is considered by NASA to be a rare early galaxy cluster. It has been hypothesized that “El Gordo “was the result of a titanic collision between 2 neighboring galaxy clusters. The pair of galaxies would collide into one another in an illustrious collision of cosmic cannonballs. Although a beautiful cluster of galaxies has formed, this collision is precisely why it was so hard for researchers to measure the mass of the cluster. Some scientists believe it is possible that with their limited technology they may still be underestimating the mass of “El Gordo.”
After NASA measured the largest cluster of galaxies in “El Gordo,” the Hubble telescope’s goal will be to compile an image of the “El Gordo” cluster. Since the cluster is so large and cannot be fully captured by the Hubble telescope, the team of astronomers will have to collect a mosaic photo by photo. Given the “El Gordo” galaxies cluster being the largest cluster ever measured by NASA, this will prove as no easy task. NASA continues to lead the way in space exploration.
Opinion by Zane Foley