Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Discovery Of Giant X-Ray Disk Sheds Light On Elliptical Galaxies

Date:
December 19, 2002
Source:
Ohio University
Summary:
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.

ATHENS, Ohio – 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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ohio University. "Discovery Of Giant X-Ray Disk Sheds Light On Elliptical Galaxies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 December 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/12/021219064850.htm>.
Ohio University. (2002, December 19). Discovery Of Giant X-Ray Disk Sheds Light On Elliptical Galaxies. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/12/021219064850.htm
Ohio University. "Discovery Of Giant X-Ray Disk Sheds Light On Elliptical Galaxies." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/12/021219064850.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

AFP (July 30, 2014) The European Space Agency's fifth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) is takes off to the International Space Station on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

AP (July 30, 2014) Arianespace launched a rocket Tuesday from French Guiana carrying a robotic cargo ship to deliver provisions to the International Space Station. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins