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Astronomers find humongous galaxy cluster, thanks to gravitational lensing

Using NASA's Huble Space Telescope, astronomers have detected a huge cluster of galaxies some 10 billion light-years away. The cluster is so massive that it distorts light that passes near it. 

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"So finding a massive cluster at that range that is also gravitationally lensing is a real long shot, even if you were looking at the whole sky," he said.

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The astronomers originally found the galaxy cluster using NASA's infrared Spitzer Space Telescope, but evidence of the gravitational lensing was seen in images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2010.

To follow up on this find, and to narrow down the cluster's mass and distance, the researchers used data from the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy (CARMA) radio telescope in the Inyo Mountains in California, and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in space.

The discovery of a massive galaxy cluster at such a great distance, in a limited field of observation, could indicate that current models of clusters in the early universe may need to be reworked, Gonzalez said. But right now, it is too soon to tell.

"We just don't know," Gonzalez said. "We need to find more clusters at this range so that we can get more data. So far we only have one example to study."

The study's detailed findings are published in the July 10 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

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