Saraswati, a supercluster of galaxies, discovered by Indian scientists

Reports suggest that superclusters are relatively recent finds. The first such supercluster was discovered in the 1980s.

Created On: Jul 14, 2017 12:52 ISTModified On: Jul 14, 2017 13:01 IST


Discovery of a previously unknown supercluster of galaxies, Saraswati, was reported by a team of Indian scientists. Saraswati, the supercluster of 43 galaxies, is located in the direction of constellation Pisces.

This supercluster is one of the largest known structures in the nearby universe and is located some four billion light-years away from our planet, the Earth. It may contain the mass equivalent to over 20 million billion suns.

The Saraswati supercluster was estimated to have a mass of 2 x 1016 (twenty thousand trillion) suns. It has the capacity of containing thousands of suns along with billion of stars, planets, gases, dark matter and other bodies. Saraswati is estimated to be stretched over 650 million light years in distance.

The discovery is rare because just four or five such superclusters in the entire universe are known till date like ‘Shapley Concentration’ or the ‘Sloan Great Wall’. Superclusters, a group of clusters of galaxies, are the largest structures of stars, planets and other heavenly bodies in the universe.

A paper on this discovery will be published in the next issue of The Astrophysical Journal, the research journal of the American Astronomical Society.

Team behind Discovery of Saraswati

The team of scientists led by Joydeep Bagchi that discovered this supercluster of galaxies, Saraswati, includes scientists from Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune; the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune; Newman College in Thodupuzha in Kerala and National Institute of Technology, Jamshedpur.
IUCAA is an autonomous institution set up by the India to promote the nucleation and growth of active groups in astronomy and astrophysics at Indian universities.

The current director of IUCAA is Somak Raychaudhury, the co-author of the paper, is a person who was part of the team that in the 1980s discovered the first massive supercluster of galaxies (the Shapley Concentration). At that time, he was a he was a PhD student at the University of Cambridge. That discovery was published in the journal Nature in 1989. That supercluster was named after the American astronomer Harlow Shapley, in recognition of his pioneering survey of galaxies.

About Superclusters

Superclusters are a cluster (a large group) of galaxies, which themselves occurs as clusters. They can also be termed as galaxy groups. Galaxies are themselves made of billions of stars and planets, and a cluster typically contains several hundreds of these galaxies.

NOTE: It is must to know that the Milky Way Galaxy, of which Earth is a small member, is also a part of part of the Local Group of Galaxy cluster, which in turn forms the Laniakea Supercluster. Identified only in 2014, Laniakea supercluster contains more than 54 galaxies. Discovery of this Supercluster was announced by Brent Tully at the University of Hawaii and collaborators.

Hope with this discovery

With this discovery, scientists hope that their work will help the to shed light on the perplexing question that how such extreme large scale, prominent matter-density enhancements had formed billions of years in the past. It will also help them to understand that when the mysterious Dark Energy started to dominate the structure formation.

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