Cape Town Scientists Discover One Of the Largest Objects In The Universe

First Posted: Nov 24, 2016 03:20 AM EST

A team of scientists from Cape Town recently discovered a previously unkown major concentration of galaxies in the constellation Vela and have since named it the Vela Supercluster.

Science Alert reported that observations made in 2012 with the spectrograph of the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) confirmed that there are eight new clusters within the Vela area, and a subsequent spectroscopic observation via the Anglo-Australian Telescope in Australia revealed the vastness of the said structure.

Science Alert noted that the Vela Supercluster is a massive group of several galaxy clusters, each of which containing hundreds or thousands of galaxies in it. Renée Kraan-Korteweg, an astrophysicist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, said that, "I could not believe such a major structure would pop up so prominently."

Kraan-Korteweg and her team published the discovery of the supercluster in the Monthly Notices Letters of the Royal Astronomical Society, noting that it was hard to believe how an object so large could go unnoticed. However, considering where in the universe we live, it is difficult to peer beyond our own Milky Way, which also hosts over a hundred billion stars, trillions of planets and even colorful clouds of gas and dust.

The researchers then estimated that the Vela Supercluster is about the same mass as the Shapley Supercluster, which is made of roughly 8,600 galaxies and located about 650 million lightyears away. With a typical galaxy containing about 100 billion stars, it means that the Vela could contain somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 trillion stars. Calculations also showed that the Vela is about 800 million lightyears away, and actually zooming further at a speed of about 40 million miles per hour (or 18,000 kilometers per second).

Still, there is much for the team to do. Follow-up observations are also needed to unveil the totality of the massive Vela Supercluster.

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