Astronomers just discovered the most distant galaxy cluster ever seen

Astronomers just discovered the most distant galaxy cluster ever seen

Scientists managed to spot a cluster of galaxies 11.1 billion light-years away. 

That's almost an inconceivable distance when you consider that one light-year is roughly 6 trillion miles.

The discovery is important because it suggests that galaxy clusters started forming 700 million years earlier than we originally thought, according to NASA. That's not the only reason scientists are interested in this galaxy though. 

A remarkable find: The cluster, called CL J1001+0220 (CL J1001 for short), has nine massive galaxies in its center that are actively churning out new stars. Scientists who studied the cluster estimate these center galaxies are producing the equivalent of 3,000 suns per year. That's a lot of stars for such a young galaxy cluster.

"This galaxy cluster isn't just remarkable for its distance, it's also going through an amazing growth spurt unlike any we've ever seen," Tao Wang, lead author on the study describing the cluster, said in a statement

Researchers think they caught CL J1001 just as it was transitioning from a detached clump of galaxies into a fully formed cluster.

When the researchers compared CL J1001 to other galaxy clusters, they found the star formation was happening much more quickly in CL J1001 than others. The discovery suggests that clusters like CL J1001 form most of their stars in short, violent outbursts instead of longer stretches over time. 

Questions remain: The team isn't sure if this behavior is rare or if we just don't have enough data on star formation in other clusters. 

"We think we're going to learn a lot about the formation of clusters and the galaxies they contain by studying this object, and we're going to be searching hard for other examples," co-author Alexis Finoguenov said in the statement.