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A picture of cluster MS1054-0321, containing thousands of galaxies. The picture is comprised of pictures taken by three different telescopes.
Click on image for full size
HST: Megan Donahue (STSCI); ground: Isabella Gioia (University of Hawaii), and NASA.

Hot, Heavyweight Cluster Found!
News story originally written on August 20, 1998

Megan Donahue, an astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute, has discovered one of the heaviest and hottest galaxy clusters. Cluster MS1054-0321, located 8 billion light-years from Earth, contains thousands of galaxies and trillions of stars! The temperature of its intergalactic gas (the material between galaxies) is about 300 million degrees Fahrenheit. Imagine finding this during your normal work day!

What Donahue and colleagues have found is that this cluster is surprisingly massive; it is a heavyweight of clusters. Now remember, by looking so far away, these astronomers are looking back in time.

In this traditional view of the universe, either space holds just enough matter to be able to expand forever or the universe is a dense universe and it will collapse under its own weight into a reverse Big Bang. According to dense universe theories, massive clusters such as MS1054-0321 should not have had time to form this way yet (ie, this cluster should not be so massive according to the dense universe theory). So the conclusion that these astronomers are making is that the universe is not a dense universe, or it is not dense enough to stop its own expansion. This discovery becomes another piece of evidence supporting the eternal universe.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA