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Galaxy find stirs Big Bang debate

Bigger surveys of the string are being carried out.
Bigger surveys of the string are being carried out.

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SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- An Australian-led team of scientists has discovered a new string of galaxies which they say challenges existing theories about the evolution of the universe.

The team, using telescopes in Chile and in Australia, detected the galaxies about 10.8 billion light years away in a remote region of the universe, the Australian National University's Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics said in a statement Thursday.

With light traveling at 9.5 trillion kilometers in one light year, this means the galaxies are being observed as they appeared 10.8 billion years ago, the statement said.

The universe was formed during the Big Bang about 3 billion years earlier -- 13.7 billion years ago -- so the find could give more clues about what went on in the universe when it was one-fifth of its present age.

Thirty-seven of the brightest galaxies were detected, including a quasar, but thousands of galaxies were probably in the string, according to astronomer Dr Paul Francis who heads the team.

But none of the existing computer simulation models were able to reproduce galaxy strings as large as the one the team found.

"We are looking back four-fifths of the way to the beginning of the universe and the existence of this galaxy string will send astrophysicists around the world back to the drawing board to re-examine theories of the formation of the universe," Francis said.

"The simulations tell us that you cannot take the matter in the early universe and line it up in strings this large. There simply hasn't been enough time since the Big Bang for it to form structures this colossal."

The researchers -- who were funded by NASA and the Australian National University -- were refused the use of a telescope in the United States because the observations to be carried out were considered technically impossible by many American astronomers, the statement said.

The team has presented its findings to the American Astronomical Society.

Further surveys to map an area of the sky ten times greater than the team's observation are underway.

This would provide a clearer picture of the large-scale structure, the statement said.

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