Groups & Clusters of Galaxies

How Often do Giant Black Holes Become Hyperactive?

Abell 644 and SDSS J1021+131
This two-panel graphic contains two composite images of galaxies used in a recent study of supermassive black holes. In each of the galaxies, data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory are blue, and optical data from the Sloan Digital Sky survey are shown in red, yellow and white. The galaxy on the left, Abell 644, is in the center of a galaxy cluster that lies about 920 million light years from Earth. On the right is an isolated, or "field," galaxy named SDSS J1021+1312, which is located about 1.1 billion light years away. At the center of both of these galaxies is a growing supermassive black hole, called an active galactic nucleus (AGN) by astronomers, which is pulling in large quantities of gas.

-Megan Watzke

An Intergalactic Weather Map

NGC 5813
This composite image shows an intergalactic "weather map" around the elliptical galaxy NGC 5813, the dominant central galaxy in a galaxy group located about 105 million light years away from Earth. Just like a weather map for a local forecast on Earth, the colored circle depicts variations in temperature across a region. This particular map presents the range of temperature in a region of space as observed by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, with the hotter temperatures shown in red and decreasingly cooler temperatures shown in orange, yellow, green, and blue. The numbers displayed when rolling your mouse over the image give the gas temperature in millions of degrees.

Cluster Collisions Switch on Radio Halos

Abell 1758

This is a composite image of the northern part of the galaxy cluster Abell 1758, located about 3.2 billion light years from Earth, showing the effects of a collision between two smaller galaxy clusters. Chandra X-ray data (blue) reveals hot gas in the cluster and data from the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) in India (pink) shows huge "halos" generated by ultra-relativistic particles and magnetic fields over vast scales. Optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey are colored gold.

Shapes All Over The Place: Bubbles

Maybe it's the large number of the pre-school people that we spend time with these days, but we see shapes all over the place. Hoping to go beyond the snack-and-nap crowd, we like to look for similar shapes in very unexpected places.

Webby Award
A demonstration of visuals for bubbles (soap bubble, bubble nebula, galaxy cluster bubbles) across different scales.

Einstein's Theory Fights off Challengers

Abell 3376

Two different teams have reported using Chandra observations of galaxy clusters to study the properties of gravity on cosmic scales and test Einstein's theory of General Relativity. Such studies are crucial for understanding the evolution of the universe, both in the past and the future, and for probing the nature of dark energy, one of the biggest mysteries in science.

Two Tails to Tell

ESO 137-001

Two spectacular tails of X-ray emission has been seen trailing behind a galaxy using the Chandra X-ray Observatory. A composite image of the galaxy cluster Abell 3627 shows X-rays from Chandra in blue, optical emission in yellow and emission from hydrogen light -- known to astronomers as "H-alpha" -- in red. The optical and H-alpha data were obtained with the Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) Telescope in Chile.

Massive Black Hole Implicated in Stellar Destruction

NGC 1399

Evidence from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Magellan telescopes suggest a star has been torn apart by an intermediate-mass black hole in a globular cluster. In this image, X-rays from Chandra are shown in blue and are overlaid on an optical image from the Hubble Space Telescope. The Chandra observations show that this object is a so-called ultraluminous X-ray source (ULX). An unusual class of objects, ULXs emit more X-rays than any known stellar X-ray source, but less than the bright X-ray sources associated with supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies. Their exact nature has remained a mystery, but one suggestion is that some ULXs are black holes with masses between about a hundred and a thousands times that of the Sun.

Galaxy Cluster Smashes Distance Record


This is a composite image of the most distant galaxy cluster yet detected. This image contains X-rays from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, optical data from the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and optical and infrared data from the Digitized Sky Survey. This record-breaking object, known as JKCS041, is observed as it was when the Universe was just one quarter of its current age. X-rays from Chandra are displayed here as the diffuse blue region, while the individual galaxies in the cluster are seen in white in the VLT's optical data, embedded in the X-ray emission.

Black Hole Pumps Iron

Hydra A

This composite image of the Hydra A galaxy cluster shows 10-million-degree gas observed by Chandra in blue and jets of radio emission observed by the Very Large Array in pink. Optical data (in yellow) from the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope and the Digitized Sky Survey shows galaxies in the cluster.


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