Science & Tech

Chandra finds ghosts of eruption in galaxy cluster

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Discovery implies that galaxy clusters are sites of enormously energetic and recurring explosions

Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory recently discovered relics of an ancient eruption that tore through a cluster of galaxies. The discovery implies that galaxy clusters are the sites of enormously energetic and recurring explosions, and may provide an explanation why galaxy clusters behave like giant cosmic magnets. Galaxy clusters are the largest known gravitationally bound structures in the universe. Hundreds of galaxies swarm in giant reservoirs of multimillion-degree gas that radiates most of its energy in X-rays. Over the course of billions of years, some of the gas should cool and sink toward a galaxy in the center of the cluster where it could trigger an outburst in the vicinity of the central massive black hole. The findings were announced at a press conference at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, D.C., on January 8, 2002. In addition to a group of astronomers from the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, the research team included: Paul Nulsen, University of Wollagong, Australia; Larry David, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass.; Chris Carilli, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Socorro, N.M.; and Craig Sarazin, University of Virginia.