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Most of the universe's heavy elements, including iron that is central to life itself, formed early in cosmic history and spread throughout the universe, according to a new study of the Perseus Galaxy Cluster using Japan's Suzaku satellite.

Between 2009 and 2011, researchers from the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) used Suzaku's unique capabilities to map the distribution of iron throughout the Perseus Galaxy Cluster.

What they found is remarkable: Across the cluster, which spans more than 11 million light-years of space, the concentration of X-ray-emitting iron is essentially uniform in all directions.

"This tells us that the iron — and by extension, other heavy elements — already was widely dispersed throughout the universe when the cluster began to form," said Norbert Werner from KIPAC. "We conclude that any explanation of how this happened demands lead roles for supernova explosions and active black holes."

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