Intracluster stars are believed to be unbound from their progenitor galaxies and diffused throughout the galaxy cluster, creating intracluster light (ICL). However, when and how these stars form is still under debate. To directly constrain the origin, one powerful method is to study clusters at the epoch when mature galaxy clusters began to appear. We report measurements of the spatial distribution, color, and quantity of diffuse intracluster stars for a massive galaxy cluster at a redshift of 1.24. This is the most distant galaxy cluster to date for which those three properties of the ICL have been quantified simultaneously. Our detection of the significant ICL fraction in this unprecedentedly high-redshift regime strongly indicates that intracluster stars, contrary to most previous studies, might have formed during a short period and early in the history of the Virgo-like massive cluster formation and might be concurrent with the formation of the brightest cluster galaxy.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science