A team of Indian astronomers have identified an extremely large supercluster of galaxies and have named it Saraswati.
Astronomers from the Pune-based Inter University Centre for Astronomy & Astrophysics (IUCAA), and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) and members of two other Indian universities stumbled upon the previously unknown supercluster, which is located in the direction of the Pisces constellation.
A Supercluster is a chain of galaxies and galaxy clusters, bound by gravity, often several hundred times bigger than clusters of galaxies.
According to IUCAA, this is one of the largest-known structures in the nearby Universe, and is at a distance of 4,000 million light-years from us, and stretching over 600 million light-years.
Speculated to contain the mass equivalent of over 20 million billion suns, the Saraswati supercluster was observed by the astronomers as it must have appeared when the Universe was about 10 billion years old.
Led by Joydeep Bagchi from IUCAA, the discovery was made by a team comprising Shishir Sankhyayan, a PhD student at IISER, Pratik Dabhade, an IUCAA research fellow, Joe Jacob of the Newman College, Kerala, and Prakash Sarkar of the National Institute of Technology, Jamshedpur.
Their finding will be published in the latest issue of The Astrophysical Journal, one of the premier research journals of the American Astronomical Society.
“We were very surprised to spot this giant wall-like supercluster of galaxies, visible in a large spectroscopic survey of distant galaxies, known as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. This supercluster is clearly embedded in a large network of cosmic filaments traced by clusters and large voids,” said Joydeep, the lead author of the paper, according to a statement released by IUCAA.
According to Joydeep, only a few comparatively large superclusters have been reported previously, like the ‘Shapley Concentration’ or the ‘Sloan Great Wall’ in the nearby universe. “The ‘Saraswati’ supercluster is far more distant one,” he added.
Dwelling deeper, the team explained that their work will help in shedding light over the perplexing question of the formation of extremely large-scale, prominent matter-density enhancements in the past coinciding with the time of dominant structure formations by the mysterious Dark Energy.
A word that has proto-Indo-European roots, Saraswati is a name found in ancient Indian texts referring to a major river around which the ancient Indian civilization had flourished. More commonly known as the Goddess of knowledge in Hindu mythology, Saraswati is also the celestial goddess believed to be the keeper of the celestial rivers.