Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Space Telescope's X-Ray Vision Reveals The Origin Of Elements In Galaxy Clusters

Date:
May 11, 2006
Source:
European Space Agency
Summary:
Deep observations of two X-ray bright clusters of galaxies with ESA's XMM-Newton satellite allowed a group of international astronomers to measure their chemical composition with an unprecedented accuracy. Knowing the chemical composition of galaxy clusters is of crucial importance to understanding the origin of chemical elements in the Universe.

Galaxy clusters as seen by XMM-Newton.
Credit: s: ESA and the XMM-Newton EPIC consortium

Deep observations of two X-ray bright clusters of galaxies with ESA’s XMM-Newton satellite allowed a group of international astronomers to measure their chemical composition with an unprecedented accuracy. Knowing the chemical composition of galaxy clusters is of crucial importance to understanding the origin of chemical elements in the Universe.

Clusters, or conglomerates, of galaxies are the largest objects in the Universe. By looking at them through optical telescopes it is possible to see hundreds or even thousands of galaxies occupying a volume a few million light years across. However, such telescopes only reveal the tip of the iceberg. In fact most of the atoms in galaxy clusters are in the form of hot gas emitting X-ray radiation, with the mass of the hot gas five times larger than the mass in the cluster’s galaxies themselves.

Most of the chemical elements produced in the stars of galaxy clusters - expelled into the surrounding space by supernova explosions and by stellar winds - become part of the hot X-ray emitting gas. Astronomers divide supernovae into two basic types: ‘core collapse’ and ‘Type Ia’ supernovae. The ‘core collapse’ supernovae originate when a star at the end of its life collapses into a neutron star or a black hole. These supernovae produce lots of oxygen, neon and magnesium. The Type Ia supernovae explode when a white dwarf star consuming matter from a companion star becomes too massive and completely disintegrates. This type produces lots of iron and nickel.

Respectively in November 2002 and August 2003, and for one and a half day each time, XMM-Newton’s made deep observations of the two galaxy clusters called ‘Sersic 159-03’ and ‘2A 0335+096’. Thanks to these data the astronomers could determine the abundances of nine chemical elements in the clusters ‘plasma’ – a gas containing charged particles such as ions and electrons.

These elements include oxygen, iron, neon, magnesium, silicon, argon, calcium, nickel, and - detected for the first time ever in a galaxy cluster - chromium. "Comparing the abundances of the detected elements to the yields of supernovae calculated theoretically, we found that about 30 percent of the supernovae in these clusters were exploding white dwarfs (‘Type Ia’) and the rest were collapsing stars at the end of their lives (‘core collapse’)," said Norbert Werner, from the SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research (Utrecht, Netherlands) and one of the lead authors of these results.

"This number is in between the value found for our own Galaxy (where Type Ia supernovae represent about 13 percent of the supernovae ‘population’) and the current frequency of supernovae events as determined by the Lick Observatory Supernova Search project (according to which about 42 percent of all observed supernovae are Type Ia)," he continued.

The astronomers also found that all supernova models predict much less calcium than what is observed in clusters and that the observed nickel abundance cannot be reproduced by these models. These discrepancies indicate that that the details of supernova enrichment is not yet clearly understood. Since clusters of galaxies are believed to be fair samples of the Universe, their X-ray spectroscopy can help to improve the supernova models.

The spatial distribution of elements across a cluster also holds information about the history of clusters themselves. The distribution of elements in 2A 0335+096 indicates an ongoing merger. The distribution of oxygen and iron across Sersic 159-03 indicates that while most of the enrichment by the core collapse supernovae happened long time ago, Type Ia supernovae still continue to enrich the hot gas by heavy elements especially in the core of the cluster.

This work is presented in two papers in the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal. The first one, published in April 2006 and titled ‘XMM-Newton spectroscopy of the cluster of galaxies 2A 035+096’ (A&A Volume 449, Page 475), is by N.Werner , J.S.Kaastra and J.A.M.Bleeker (SRON, Utrecht, The Netherlands), J.de Plaa and J.Vink (SRON and Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands), T.Tamura (JAXA, Kanagawa, Japan), J.R.Peterson (Stanford University, CA, USA), F.Verbunt (Utrecht University, The Netherlands).

The second article, to appear in 2006 and titled ‘Chemical evolution in Sersic 159-03 observed by XMM-Newton’ (A&A 2006 and astro-ph/0602582), is by J.de Plaa, J.Vink and J.A.M.Bleeker (SRON and Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands), N.Werner, J.S.Kaastra and M.Mendez (SRON, Utrecht, The Netherlands), A.M.Bykov (A.F. Ioffe Institute for Physics and Technology, St.Petersburg, Russia), M.Bonamente (University of Alabama, Hunstville, AL, USA), J.R. Peterson (Stanford University, CA, USA).

This research is in particular the result of the cooperation between the SRON Utrecht and the Utrecht University in the Netherlands.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

European Space Agency. "Space Telescope's X-Ray Vision Reveals The Origin Of Elements In Galaxy Clusters." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 May 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060511083606.htm>.
European Space Agency. (2006, May 11). Space Telescope's X-Ray Vision Reveals The Origin Of Elements In Galaxy Clusters. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060511083606.htm
European Space Agency. "Space Telescope's X-Ray Vision Reveals The Origin Of Elements In Galaxy Clusters." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060511083606.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX on Tuesday to build America's next spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017, opening the way to a new chapter in human spaceflight. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
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