An international team of astronomers has discovered a titanic structure in the early Universe, just two billion years after the Big Bang.
The researchers describe this galaxy as a proto-supercluster, nicknaming it Hyperion, is the largest and most massive structure yet found at such a remote time and distance.
Hyperion is said to be the largest and most massive structure to be found so early in the formation of the Universe
Using the VIMOS instrument on the ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile, the teams - who come from the University of California and the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF) in Bologna - identified a gigantic proto-supercluster of galaxies forming in the early Universe, just 2.3 billion years after the Big Bang.
Hyperion is said to be the largest and most massive structure to be found so early in the formation of the Universe, with a mass calculated at more than one million billion times that of the Sun.
This enormous mass is similar to that of the largest structures observed in the Universe today, but finding such a massive object in the early Universe surprised astronomers.
"This is the first time that such a large structure has been identified at such a high redshift, just over two billion years after the Big Bang," INAF researcher Olga Cucciati said.
"Normally these kinds of structures are known at lower redshifts, which means when the Universe has had much more time to evolve and construct such huge things. It was a surprise to see something this evolved when the Universe was relatively young."
This is the first time that such a large structure has been identified at such a high redshift
The team found that Hyperion has a highly complex structure, containing at least seven high-density regions connected by filaments of galaxies, and its size is comparable to superclusters closer to Earth, though it has a very different structure.
"Superclusters closer to Earth tend to a much more concentrated distribution of mass with clear structural features," said project lead Brian Lemaux from the University of California's Department of Physics, College of Letters and Science.
"But in Hyperion, the mass is distributed much more uniformly in a series of connected blobs, populated by loose associations of galaxies."
Given its size so early in the history of the Universe, Hyperion is expected to evolve into something similar to the immense structures in the local Universe such as the superclusters making up the Sloan Great Wall or the Virgo Supercluster that contains our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
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