ESAs X-ray observatory, XMM-Newton, has returned tantalising new data about the nature of the Universe. In a survey of distant clusters of galaxies, XMM-Newton has found puzzling differences between todays clusters of galaxies and those present in the Universe around seven thousand million years ago. Some scientists claim that this can be interpreted to mean that the dark energy which most astronomers now believe dominates the Universe simply does not exist…
Observations of eight distant clusters of galaxies, the furthest of which is around 10 thousand million light years away, were studied by an international group of astronomers led by David Lumb of ESAs Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands. They compared these clusters to those found in the nearby Universe. This study was conducted as part of the larger XMM-Newton Omega Project, which investigates the density of matter in the Universe under the lead of Jim Bartlett of the College de France.
Clusters of galaxies are prodigious emitters of X-rays because they contain a large quantity of high-temperature gas. This gas surrounds galaxies in the same way as steam surrounds people in a sauna. By measuring the quantity and energy of X-rays from a cluster, astronomers can work out both the temperature of the cluster gas and also the mass of the cluster.
Fred Jansen | ESA
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