Page last updated at 13:24 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 14:24 UK

'Most distant' galaxy group spied

JKCS041 was first detected in 2006 with infrared observations

A group of galaxies has been seen at a record distance from Earth thanks to the assistance of Bristol scientists.

The cluster, named JKCS041, is 10.2 billion light-years away - a billion light-years further away than the current record holder.

Nasa's Chandra X-Ray Observatory made the discovery with other telescopes.

"It's like finding a T. Rex fossil that's much older than any other known," said Dr Ben Maughan, from the University of Bristol.

He added: "One fossil might just fit in with our understanding of dinosaurs, but if you found many more you would have to start rethinking how dinosaurs evolved.

"The same is true for galaxy clusters and our understanding of cosmology."

'Oldest possible'

Galaxy clusters are the Universe's largest objects bound by gravity, and experts hope that the findings will help them understand better how the cosmos has changed over time.

JKCS041 is at the farthest point at which scientists think galaxy clusters can exist in the early Universe.

Stefano Andreon, of the National Institute for Astrophysics in Milan, Italy, said: "This object is close to the distance limit expected for a galaxy cluster.

"We don't think gravity can work fast enough to make galaxy clusters much earlier."

Scientists have detected what they believe to be the light from individual galaxies out to about 13 billion light-years. A group of telescopes this year also caught what was thought to be the flash from the cataclysmic explosion of a giant star at a similar distance.

The paper describing the JKCS041 results will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

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