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Hidden in a distant galaxy cluster collision are wisps of gas resembling the starship Enterprise—an iconic spaceship from the "Star Trek" franchise.
Galaxy clusters—cosmic structures containing hundreds or even thousands of galaxies—are the largest objects in the Universe held together by gravity. Multi-million-degree gas fills the space in between the individual galaxies. The mass of the hot gas is about six times greater than that of all the galaxies combined. This superheated gas is invisible to optical telescopes, but shines brightly in X-rays, so an X-ray telescope like NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is required to study it.
X-rays - Types - Light - Radio - Waves
By combining X-rays with other types of light, such as radio waves, a more complete picture of these important cosmic objects can be obtained. A new composite image of the galaxy cluster Abell 1033, including X-rays from Chandra (purple) and radio emission from the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) network in the Netherlands (blue), does just that. Optical emission from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey is also shown. The galaxy cluster is located about 1.6 billion light years from Earth.
Using X-ray and radio data, scientists have determined that Abell 1033 is actually two galaxy clusters in the process of colliding. This extraordinarily energetic event, happening from the top to the bottom in the image, has produced turbulence and shock waves, similar to sonic booms produced by a plane moving faster than the speed of sound.
Abell - Collision - Cosmic - Process—the - Production
In Abell 1033, the collision has interacted with another energetic cosmic process—the production of jets of high-speed particles by matter spiraling into a supermassive black hole, in this case one located in a galaxy in one of the clusters. These jets are revealed by radio emission to the left and right sides of the image. The radio emission is produced by electrons spiraling around magnetic field lines, a process called synchrotron emission.
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