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Hot gas bridges galaxy cluster pair

Date:
November 20, 2012
Source:
European Space Agency (ESA)
Summary:
Space telescope has made the first conclusive detection of a bridge of hot gas connecting a pair of galaxy clusters across 10 million light-years of intergalactic space.

Galaxy clusters connected by gas bridge.
Credit: Sunyaev–Zel’dovich effect: ESA Planck Collaboration; optical image: STScI Digitized Sky Survey

ESA's Planck space telescope has made the first conclusive detection of a bridge of hot gas connecting a pair of galaxy clusters across 10 million light-years of intergalactic space.

Planck's primary task is to capture the most ancient light of the cosmos, the Cosmic Microwave Background, or CMB. As this faint light traverses the Universe, it encounters different types of structure including galaxies and galaxy clusters -- assemblies of hundreds to thousands of galaxies bound together by gravity.

If the CMB light interacts with the hot gas permeating these huge cosmic structures, its energy distribution is modified in a characteristic way, a phenomenon known as the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich (SZ) effect, after the scientists who discovered it.

This effect has already been used by Planck to detect galaxy clusters themselves, but it also provides a way to detect faint filaments of gas that might connect one cluster to another.

In the early Universe, filaments of gaseous matter pervaded the cosmos in a giant web, with clusters eventually forming in the densest nodes.

Much of this tenuous, filamentary gas remains undetected, but astronomers expect that it could most likely be found between interacting galaxy clusters, where the filaments are compressed and heated up, making them easier to spot.

Planck's discovery of a bridge of hot gas connecting the clusters Abell 399 and Abell 401, each containing hundreds of galaxies, represents one such opportunity.

The presence of hot gas between the billion-light-year-distant clusters was first hinted at in X-ray data from ESA's XMM-Newton, and the new Planck data confirm the observation.

It also marks Planck's first detection of inter-cluster gas using the SZ effect technique.

By combining the Planck data with archival X-ray observations from the German satellite Rosat, the temperature of the gas in the bridge is found to be similar to the temperature of the gas in the two clusters -- on the order of 80 million degrees Celsius.

Early analysis suggests the gas could be mixture of the elusive filaments of the cosmic web mixed with gas originating from the clusters.

A more detailed analysis and the possible detection of gas bridges connecting other clusters will help to provide a more conclusive answer.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Planck collaboration: P. A. R. Ade, J. M. Diego, et al. Planck intermediate results. VIII. Filaments between interacting clusters. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 2012; DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201220194

Cite This Page:

European Space Agency (ESA). "Hot gas bridges galaxy cluster pair." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121120100159.htm>.
European Space Agency (ESA). (2012, November 20). Hot gas bridges galaxy cluster pair. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121120100159.htm
European Space Agency (ESA). "Hot gas bridges galaxy cluster pair." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121120100159.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

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