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Unexpected phenomenon in a merger of a cluster of galaxies

Bringing some of the mysteries of the universe a little closer to home.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Thu Oct 05, 2017 5:20 pm

An international team of astronomers led by Francesco de Gasperin has witnessed a gas tail of a galaxy that slowly extinguished, but then reignited. It is unclear where the energy for the rejuvenation comes from. The researchers have published their findings in Science Advances.

The astronomers were investigating Abell 1033. This is a cluster that consists of two smaller, merging clusters. Abell 1033 is located in the northern constellation of Leo Minor (near Ursa Major). Clusters of galaxies are the largest structures in the universe. They can contain hundreds to thousands of galaxies similar to the Milky Way. Smaller clusters can merge together to form a larger cluster.

The astronomers observed that an individual galaxy in one cluster of Abell 1033 left a trail of gas as it traveled through the other cluster. On an astronomical scale, such a trail resembles the trail of coloured smoke behind a stunt plane.

The astronomers had expected that the gas trail, like the ones behind a stunt plane, would slowly die and eventually disappear. To their astonishment, they saw that the end of the gas trail was brighter than the middle.

"This was totally unexpected," says Francesco de Gasperin. "As these clouds of electrons radiate away their energy over time, they should become fainter and disappear. Instead, in this case, after more than a hundred million years, the tail of electrons is brightly glowing."

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Thu Oct 05, 2017 5:22 pm

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Credit: Leiden University

A galaxy (in orange) moves to the left and leaves a gas trail. The trail seems to extinguish slowly, but lightens up again near the second, white-yellow galaxy. Most white dots in the image are complete galaxies.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Thu Oct 05, 2017 5:23 pm



Understanding how clusters grow is critical to tracking how the Universe itself evolves over time.

 
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