The Hubble Space Telescope, with its Advanced Camera for Surveys, has taken a peek at the most distant galaxy clusters ever seen. The astronomers found “embryonic” galaxies in a “proto-cluster” of galaxies, named TN J1338-1942, that they estimate formed a mere 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang. This find has been reported in the Jan. 1 issue of Nature.1
The same astronomers had earlier found a cluster named RDCS 1252 that, by 5 billion years after the Big Bang, looked already mature. The Hubble ACS was used to image the two clusters to study their evolution.
One of the astronomers, John Blakeslee (Johns Hopkins University) remarked, according to the Hubble press release, “Until recently people didn’t think that clusters existed when the universe was only about 5 billion years old.” Another co-author of the paper, George Miley (Leiden University, Netherlands) added, “until recently astronomers thought it was almost impossible to find clusters that existed 8 billion years ago.” The new finding pushes the date of early galaxy and cluster formation even further back, to less than 10% the assumed age of the universe.
The newly-discovered cluster RDCS 1252, is virtually indistinguishable from later galaxy clusters. The Hubble press release states:
“The cluster RDCS 1252 looks like a present-day cluster,” said Marc Postman of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., and co-author of both research papers. “In fact, if you were to put it next to a present-day cluster, you wouldn’t know which is which.”
The proto-cluster TN J1338 has a dominant galaxy that appears to be “producing spectacular radio-emitting jets, fueled by a supermassive black hole deep within the galaxy’s nucleus.” The cluster RD1252 may have thousands of member galaxies, of which only a few are detectable at visible wavelengths.
Miley et al., “A large population of ‘Lyman-break’ galaxies in a protocluster at redshift z=4.1,” Nature 427, 47 – 50 (01 January 2004); doi:10.1038/nature02125.
Observations such as these are on the bleeding edge of the possible, so one must be cautious interpreting the results. Sweeping aside the embedded assumptions about ages and evolutionary histories, there is nothing in these latest images to encourage old gradualistic cosmologies, and much to discourage them. The lumpiness problem in cosmology (i.e., too much structure too soon) has been a theoretical challenge for decades. Here is the lumpiness problem intensified. Not long after the origin of the universe, whenever that was, galaxies seem to be already mature enough to have black holes, heavy elements and grandchildren. This latest finding is another in a continuing trend of observations that show almost instantaneous structure from an assumed smooth beginning.
Hear the astronomers’ admissions. No one thought it was even possible to have so much structure so early. Not long ago, even an 8 billion year old cluster would have been thought impossible, and now 1.5 billion? How far can you stretch a theory before it breaks?
A similar situation is found in the fossil record, and in the observed complexity of the most “primitive” life on Earth. What is the common denominator in these three predicaments? Naturalistic philosophy: the belief that our universe is just unguided matter in motion. It’s not working. The Cambrian explosion in paleontology, the discovery of advanced molecular machines in bacteria, and the discovery of mature stars in the early universe were not predicted by evolutionary philosophers, and effectively falsify their assumptions.