Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Discovery of giant X-ray disk sheds light on elliptical galaxies

18.12.2002


Astronomers discovered a giant disk of hot, X-ray emitting gas in the elliptical galaxy NGC 1700.
Courtesy of Thomas Statler


Ohio University astronomers have discovered the largest disk of hot, X-ray emitting gas ever observed in the universe: At 90,000 light years in diameter, it’s about 100,000 times the size of any comparable object. The disk, spinning through a distant galaxy, is more than just an interstellar oddity, the researchers say. The object could offer new information about the way certain galaxies form and evolve.

About 20 percent of all galaxies are elliptical, the largest of the three types of galaxies in the universe. They differ from spiral galaxies like the Milky Way, as they lack new stars and spiral "arms." Scientists once believed that elliptical galaxies were ancient, simple systems that contained only old stars and formed in the early days of the universe. But new research suggests elliptical galaxies are more complex and dynamic.

"It used to be thought that galaxies form and then sit there and age quietly over time. But now we understand that galaxies live, in the sense that there’s an interplay of gas and stars," said Thomas Statler, an associate professor of physics and astronomy and lead author of the study, published in the Dec. 20 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.



The newly discovered X-ray disk offers more evidence for that argument. Using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, an orbiting spacecraft that houses the most powerful X-ray telescope in existence, the astronomers discovered the disk while analyzing data collected from NGC 1700, a young elliptical galaxy about 160 million light years from Earth. Giant in size and about 8 million degrees in temperature, the disk was an unexpected find for Statler and colleague Brian McNamara.

But while its gargantuan scale is striking, the disk also yielded another surprise: The hot gas is not in calm balance with the gravitational forces as expected, but spinning through the galaxy.

In fact, the giant, rotating X-ray disk suggests that this elliptical galaxy – and perhaps others like it – wasn’t created by the merger of two spiral galaxies, the leading picture of elliptical galaxy formation. "If you take the simple picture that everyone has been working with, it really can’t explain this," said Statler, whose research is funded by NASA through the Chandra X-ray Observatory Center.

The astronomers hypothesize that the X-ray disk was created during the collision of an elliptical galaxy and a spiral galaxy. But instead of crashing head-on, the galaxies first dealt each other a glancing blow, sending the elliptical galaxy’s hot gas into a tailspin. "When you see gas spread out in a disk, like we’re seeing with NGC 1700, it’s telling you that the history of the galaxy is something more complicated," Statler said.

The rotation of the X-ray disk also could impact the way astronomers establish the mass of galaxies, Statler added. Scientists calculate mass based on the hot gas found inside, assuming that the gas is in pressure balance with gravitational forces. But rotation of the hot gases may throw off those computations. The researcher’s team is beginning to re-examine data from other galaxies to determine if the phenomenon exists elsewhere in the universe, and if scientists should recalculate galaxy weight.

"We want to figure out how widespread and how significant the rotation in the gas is," he said. "It could tell us how to correct what we’ve done before."


###
Written by Andrea Gibson.

Attention Editors, Reporters: An image of the X-ray disk is available at 300 dpi. Contact Andrea Gibson at gibsona@ohio.edu or Becky Gill at gillr@ohio.edu. A copy of the article on which this news release is based is available online at http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/ApJ/journal/issues/ApJ/v581n2/55475/55475.web.pdf.

This news release also is available online at http://www.ohiou.edu/researchnews/science/xray_disk.html.

Contact: Thomas Statler, 740-593-1722, statler@ohio.edu

Andrea Gibson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ohiou.edu/researchnews/science/xray_disk.html
http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/ApJ/journal/issues/ApJ/v581n2/55475/55475.web.pdf

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht New Insight into Molecular Processes
21.11.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Exoplanet stepping stones
21.11.2018 | W. M. Keck Observatory

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: First diode for magnetic fields

Innsbruck quantum physicists have constructed a diode for magnetic fields and then tested it in the laboratory. The device, developed by the research groups led by the theorist Oriol Romero-Isart and the experimental physicist Gerhard Kirchmair, could open up a number of new applications.

Electric diodes are essential electronic components that conduct electricity in one direction but prevent conduction in the opposite one. They are found at the...

Im Focus: Nonstop Tranport of Cargo in Nanomachines

Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.

Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Optical Coherence Tomography: German-Japanese Research Alliance hosted Medical Imaging Conference

19.11.2018 | Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helping to Transport Proteins Inside the Cell

21.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Meta-surface corrects for chromatic aberrations across all kinds of lenses

21.11.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Removing toxic mercury from contaminated water

21.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>