Swiss researchers have stars in their eyes

Swiss researchers hope to find out more about the creation of galaxy clusters.

Astronomers from the University of Basel have discovered a new group of nebular stars in the skies above Chile.

This content was published on February 9, 2002 - 10:35

The team, part of an international research mission from Switzerland, Italy, Australia and the United States, believes the discovery could shed light on the creation and development of galaxy clusters in the universe.

The astronomers, who are working at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile, discovered the stars inside the Virgo cluster of galaxies using an ESO telescope, which allows them to receive extremely sharp electronic pictures.

Clusters are made up of galaxies and can contain up to several thousand. Big clusters like the Virgo cluster have a tendency to attract and finally incorporate smaller groups and individual galaxies in their immediate neighbourhood as time goes by.

Long cigar

This is the first time researchers have been able to take close-up pictures of the Virgo cluster, which is shaped like a long cigar and is 10 million light years wide.

Fifty years ago, a Swiss astronomer spotted bright spots between the various galaxies of the Coma cluster but his equipment would not allow him a closer look.

Using the latest technology, however, the research team was able to identify the nebular stars and measure light emission, which was approximately as strong as a 60-watt light bulb at a distance of 10 million kilometres.

The researchers believe the newly discovered stars could have left their individual galaxies during the creation of the Virgo galaxy cluster. This would give them more clues about the migration of stars within the cluster, they say.

swissinfo with agencies

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