Colliding Galaxies of the Cosmos –“Unknown, Unexpected Forces at Work” (VIDEO)



A giant collision of several galaxy clusters, each containing hundreds of galaxies, has produced this spectacular panorama of shocks and energy. The collisions generated shock waves that set off a celestial fireworks display of bright radio emission, seen as red and orange. In the center of the image, the purple indicates X-rays caused by extreme heating.

The region is collectively known as Abell 2744, some 4 billion light-years from Earth. The radio portion of the image comes from new observations made with the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), and is combined with earlier data from NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory. Both are overlaid on an image at visible-light wavelengths made with data from the Subaru telescope and the Very Large Telescope (VLT). The new VLA observations revealed previously undetected regions where shocks accelerated subatomic particles, causing radio emission.




Astronomers are studying the combined image in an attempt to decipher the sequence of galaxy-cluster collisions. Currently, they said, evidence indicates a North-South (top-bottom in the image) collision of subclusters and an East-West (left-right in the image) collision. There is a possible third collision, and the astronomers continue to analyze their data to uncover more details about the region's complex history of collisions and their aftermath.

Radio-only image of Abell 2744 region, showing radio-emitting features caused by subatomic particles accelerated to high speeds by the collisions of giant clusters of galaxies. ( Pearce et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF)




The scientists reported their findings in a paper in the Astrophysical Journal by Connor Pearce, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the University of Southampton in the UK, and an international team of colleagues.

The Pandora Cluster (shown at top of the page and below), made up of galaxies, hot gas and dark matter, sits in one of the most focused areas of filamentary 'cosmic web,' with three immense filaments connected to Cluster Abell 2744 (the Pandora Cluster). Astronomers used the ESA's XMM-Newton X-ray observatory to gather data on the structure. [Learn more about galaxy clusters.



In 2015, researchers using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) produced the most detailed image yet of a fascinating region where clusters of hundreds of galaxies are colliding, creating a rich variety of mysterious phenomena visible only to radio telescopes.

The scientists took advantage of new VLA capabilities to make a “true color” radio image. This image shows the region as it would appear if human eyes were sensitive to radio waves instead of light waves. In this image, red shows where longer radio waves predominate, and blue shows where shorter radio waves predominate, following the pattern we see in visible light.


Imagesnon-gallery2015d-finley03-10-A2256A2256_nrao (1)

The image shows a number of strange features the astronomers think are related to an ongoing collision of galaxy clusters. The region is called Abell 2256, and is about 800 million light-years from Earth and some 4 million light-years across. The image covers an area in the sky almost as large as the full moon. Studied by astronomers for more than half a century with telescopes ranging from radio to X-ray, Abell 2256 contains a fascinating variety of objects, many of whose exact origins remain unclear.

With monikers such as “Large Relic,” “Halo,” and “Long Tail,” the features in this region are seen in greater fidelity than ever before, said Frazer Owen, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). “The image reveals details of the interactions between the two merging clusters and suggests that previously unexpected physical processes are at work in such encounters,” he said.

Owen worked with Lawrence Rudnick of the University of Minnesota; Jean Eilek of New Mexico Tech; and Urvashi Rau, Sanjay Bhatnagar, and Leonid Kogan of NRAO. The researchers presented their results in the Astrophysical Journal.

The Daily Galaxy via National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Image credits: Pearce et al.; Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF; Chandra; Subaru; ESO.

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