Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Space telescope unveils hidden cosmic giant

14.12.2007
Astronomers from SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research have discovered a new cluster of galaxies, hidden behind a previously identified cluster of galaxies. The recently exposed cosmic giant is apparently just as bright as the first group, but is six times further away. The astronomers made the discovery as part of an international team using the space telescope XMM-Newton.

Being fooled by a cosmic giant is no laughing matter for an astronomer. For years astronomers racked their brains over the relation between two in X-rays equally bright and large regions in the cluster of galaxies known as Abell 3128. ‘That is the charm of science’, says Norbert Werner, PhD student at SRON. ’You are always finding things that you did not expect.’

Clusters of galaxies are the largest structures in the universe. They consist of tens to hundreds of massive galaxies, of which each in turn consists of hundreds of billions of stars. Gravity is the binding factor. The hot gas of tens of millions degrees Celsius, present in the clusters, emits X-rays, which renders the cluster visible for space telescopes such as XMM-Newton. Detailed analyses of these X-rays tell astronomers more about the composition of the gas and accordingly, its origin.

What was so intriguing about the two X-ray spots in cluster Abell 3128 was the fact that although they had the same size and brightness, the gas clouds seemed to have completely different compositions. Werner: ‘While one spot was clearly caused by a hot gas cloud rich in metals released by supernova explosions in the galaxies, the other spot seemed to contain a much lower amount of metals than any other cluster previously observed. What we observed completely contradicted the current theories about how large structures in the universe arise.’

The observations with the XMM-Newton made the surprise complete. The gas cloud behind the puzzling X-ray spot was found to be 4.6 billion light years away, at least six times further than cluster Abell 3128. ‘We were therefore looking at two completely different objects, which from our perspective were in exactly the same line of sight’, says Norbert Werner.

Foam bath
‘The research into this large cluster of galaxies mainly centres on the question as to how the large structures of the universe have been formed’, explains project leader Jelle Kaastra. According to current insights, material is spread throughout the universe as a web of thread-like structures of rarefied hot gas: the cosmic web. Between these threads are cavities that are becoming increasingly larger as the universe expands. ‘Compare it to bubbles in a bubble bath’, says the astronomer. The density of the material is highest at the intersections in the web. Therefore that is where clusters of galaxies develop.

Due to their enormous mass and attractive force, the clusters have their own dynamics. Kaastra: ‘They attract each other, collide and fly through each other; a whole host of things happen that we can study with X-ray telescopes such as the XMM-Newton.’

XMM-Newton is the X-ray telescope of the European Space Agency (ESA) for which SRON built an instrument capable of analysing the X-rays in detail. XMM-Newton was launched in 1999 from French Guyana and still functions superbly. ESA recently extended the operation of the satellite for a further 5 years.

Jasper Wamsteker | alfa
Further information:
http://www.sron.nl/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor
24.04.2017 | DGIST (Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology)

nachricht New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers
21.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>