Chilean scientists discover giant new galaxy clusters

The observations, made using the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, are expected to help scientists make a better understand the evolution of the universe.


An international team of scientists including Chilean researchers from the Universidad Católica de Chile have spotted 10 new galaxy clusters with a telescope located in Chile’s Atacama desert.

Using the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) Chilean astronomers working with Rutgers University astronomy department, discovered the galaxies using an innovative technique that identifies shadows of galaxy clusters in cosmic background radiation of the universe, the radiation emitted when the universe was just taking form.

The observations, which are being reported in the Nov. 10 issue of the Astrophysical Journal, are hoped to help scientists better understand the evolution of the universe.

“It can tell us how much matter there is in the universe and how this matter is distributed in the universe,” said Dr Leopoldo Infante, director of the center of Astro-engineering at the Universidad Católica de Chile. “The reason we want to know this is to understand the basic laws of physics that make the universe evolve.”

The six-meter diameter ACT telescope, that works by surveying the sky using electromagnetic waves, is located at 5,200 meters altitude near San Pedro de Atacama. Its positioning in one of the driest places on earth is ideal for this type of research. The telescope’s first observations were made in 2007 and it has been scanning the southern skies ever since, Dr Infante said. “Now we have our first results.”

Now, the job of the Chilean research team, which included Dr Infante, Dr Felipe Barrientos and students at the university is to follow up on the findings. Using optical telescopes they will be able to measure both the velocity and mass of the clusters.