Even galaxies don’t like to be alone. While astronomers have known for a while that galaxies tend to congregate in groups and in clusters, the process of going from formation to friend groups has remained an open question in cosmology.

In a paper published in the Astronomy & Astrophysics Journal, an international team of astronomers reports the discovery of objects that appear to be an emerging accumulation of galaxies in the making – known as a protocluster. 

“This discovery is an important step toward reaching our ultimate goal: understanding the assembly of galaxy clusters, the most massive structures that exist in the universe,” said Brenda Frye, an associate professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory and a co-author of the study. 

To cite a local analog, the Milky Way, the galaxy that is home to our solar system, belongs to a galaxy cluster known as the Local Group, which in turn is a part of the Virgo supercluster.  But what did a supercluster such as Virgo look like 11 billion years ago?  

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The pair of LUCI spectrographs, on the LBT, was one of the ground-based instruments used for this work.