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August 27, 1998 12:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-1998-27

Far-Flung Galaxy Clusters May Reveal Fate of Universe

August 27, 1998: A survey of galaxy clusters by the Hubble telescope has found what could be some of the most distant clusters ever seen. If ground-based telescopes confirm the distances and masses of the clusters, the survey may hold clues to how galaxies quickly formed into massive, large-scale structures after the Big Bang, which could provide answers for the universe's eventual fate.

According to theoretical models, if the clusters turn out to be massive and very distant, it could imply that the cosmos does not contain enough matter for gravity to stop the expansion of the universe. These models predict that such a low-density universe would have built most of its galaxy clusters long ago. These images represent three of the faraway clusters of galaxies. These galaxies were selected from a catalog of 92 new clusters uncovered during a six-year Hubble observing program known as the Medium Deep Survey.

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Credit: K. Ratnatunga, R. Griffiths (Carnegie Mellon University), and NASA