It seemed too good to be true: a superbright newfound galaxy cluster possibly more massive than any other known, forging fresh stars nearly a thousand times faster than normal.
But as many as ten telescopes have confirmed the strange case of the Phoenix Cluster. And despite the cluster's rarity, scientists say, the findings may help explain the evolution of all such clusters.
(Related: "Glowing, Green Space Blob Forming New Stars, Hubble Shows.") "The discovery of this cluster was a bit of a roller coaster, since, with every new observation, we found something even more exciting," said MIT astrophysicist Michael McDonald, lead author of the new study detailing the Phoenix findings, released by the journal Nature Wednesday.
"We were all very skeptical at first, since it doesn't fit our current picture of how galaxy clusters"—congregations of hundreds of galaxies bound by gravity—"should look," McDonald said.
"But over the span of a couple months, we convinced ourselves that this was truly an exceptional, unique system.