Astronomers have discovered a massive proto-supercluster of galaxies -- bigger than even one million billion Suns.
Scientists have called the ancient colossal structure Hyperion, the European Southern Observatory announced Wednesday. It is reported to have appeared just 2.3 billion years after the Big Bang, which took place about 13.7 billion years ago. The cluster's namesake is one of 12 titans born to the gods Gaia and Uranus in Greek mythology.
The discovery was made using data from the VIMOS Ultra-deep Survey, which can measure the distance to hundreds of galaxies and map positions within the forming supercluster in 3D, on ESO's Very Large Telescope. Hyperion was located in the constellation of Sextans and found to have a "very complex structure."
"Superclusters closer to Earth tend to have a much more concentrated distribution of mass with clear structural features," explained astronomer Brian Lemaux who co-led the team behind this discovery.
"But in Hyperion, the mass is distributed much more uniformly in a series of connected blobs populated by loose associations of galaxies," he added.
Astronomers believe this may be because superclusters closer to us have had more time than Hyperion to "gather matter together into denser regions." Give Hyperion a few billion years and it'll likely evolve into something similar.
"This is the first time that such a large structure has been identified at… just over two billion years after the Big Bang. Normally these kinds of structures are known at lower redshifts, which means when the Universe has had much more time to evolve and construct such huge things," said lead author Olga Cucciati.
"It was a surprise to see something this evolved when the Universe was relatively young… Unearthing this cosmic titan helps uncover the history of these large-scale structures," she added.
First published on Oct. 18, 2:42 a.m. PT.
Correction, 8:12 p.m. PT: Clarifies that the scientists used the VIMOS instrument on ESO's VLT instead of the Hubble Space Telescope.