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Ten billion years of brightest cluster galaxy alignments

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number0157
JournalNature Astronomy
DateAccepted/In press - 5 May 2017
DatePublished (current) - 12 Jun 2017


A galaxy’s orientation is one of its most basic observable properties. Astronomers once assumed that galaxies are randomly oriented in space; however, it is now clear that some have preferred orientations with respect to their surroundings. Chief among these are giant elliptical galaxies found in the centres of rich galaxy clusters. Numerous studies have shown that the major axes of these galaxies often share the same orientation as the surrounding matter distribution on larger scales. Using Hubble Space Telescope observations of 65 distant galaxy clusters, we show that similar alignments are seen at earlier epochs when the Universe was only one-third of its current age. These results suggest that the brightest galaxies in clusters are the product of a special formation history, one influenced by development of the cosmic web over billions of years.

    Research areas

  • Cosmology, Galaxies and clusters

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