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Probing Dark Energy with Clusters: "Russian Doll" Galaxy Clusters Reveal Information About Dark Energy
Abell 1835
Abell 1835
Abell 1835

  • Researchers are using a large sample of galaxy cluster to investigate dark energy.

  • The details of X-ray emission from over 300 galaxy clusters were obtained with Chandra.

  • The galaxy clusters range in distance from about 760 million to 8.7 billion light years from Earth.

  • The study shows that dark energy has not changed over billions of years.

These four galaxy clusters were part of a large survey of over 300 clusters used to investigate dark energy, the mysterious energy that is currently driving the accelerating expansion of the Universe, as described in our latest press release. In these composite images, X-rays from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory (purple) have been combined with optical light from the Hubble Space Telescope and Sloan Digital Sky Survey (red, green, and blue).

Researchers used a novel technique that takes advantage of the observation that the outer reaches of galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the universe held together by gravity, show similarity in their X-ray emission profiles and sizes. That is, more massive clusters are simply scaled up versions of less massive ones, similar to Russian dolls that nest inside one another.

The amount of matter in the Universe, which is dominated by the unseen substance called dark matter, and the properties of dark energy (what astronomers call cosmological parameters) affect the rate of expansion of the Universe and, therefore, how the distances to objects change with time. If the cosmological parameters used are incorrect and a cluster is inferred to be traveling away faster than the correct value, then a cluster will appear to be larger and fainter due to this "Russian doll" property. If the cluster is inferred to be traveling away more slowly than the correct value, the cluster will be smaller and brighter than a cluster according to theory.

These latest results confirm earlier studies that the amount of dark energy has not changed over billions of years. They also support the idea that dark energy is best explained by the "cosmological constant," which Einstein first proposed and is equivalent to the energy of empty space.

The galaxy clusters in this large sample ranged in distance from about 760 million to 8.7 billion light years from Earth, providing astronomers with information about the era where dark energy caused the once-decelerating expansion of the Universe to accelerate.

The X-ray emission in the outer parts of galaxy clusters is faint because the gas is diffuse there. To deal with this issue in this study, the X-ray signal from different clusters was added together. Regions near the centers of the clusters are excluded from the analysis because of large differences between the properties of different clusters caused by supermassive black hole outbursts, the cooling of gas and the formation of stars.

A paper describing these results by Andrea Morandi and Ming Sun (University of Alabama at Huntsville) appeared in the April 11th, 2016 issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal and is available online. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra's science and flight operations.

Fast Facts for Abell 1835:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Alabama/A. Morandi et al; Optical: SDSS, NASA/STScI
Release Date  April 28, 2016
Scale  Image is 3.0 arcmin across. (about 2.3 million light years)
Category  Groups & Clusters of Galaxies, Cosmology/Deep Fields/X-ray Background
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 14h 01m 02.30s | Dec +02 52' 48.00"
Constellation  Virgo
Observation Dates  7 Dec 2005, 24 Jul and 25 Aug 2006
Observation Time  192 ks
Obs. IDs  6880, 6881, 7370
Instrument  ACIS
References Morandi, A. et al, 2016, MNRAS, 457, 3266; arXiv:1601.03741
Color Code  X-ray (Purple); Optical (Red, Green, Blue)
Optical
X-ray
Distance Estimate  About 3.0 billion light years (z=0.253)
distance arrow
Fast Facts for MS 1455.0+2232:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Alabama/A. Morandi et al; Optical: SDSS, NASA/STScI
Release Date  April 28, 2016
Scale  Image is 3.3 arcmin across. (about 2.6 million light years)
Category  Groups & Clusters of Galaxies, Cosmology/Deep Fields/X-ray Background
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 14h 57m 15.10s | Dec +22 20' 34.01"
Constellation  Boötes
Observation Dates  19 May 2000, 05 Sep 2003, 23 Mar 2007
Observation Time  108 ks
Obs. IDs  543, 4192, 7709
Instrument  ACIS
References Morandi, A. et al, 2016, MNRAS, 457, 3266; arXiv:1601.03741
Color Code  X-ray (Purple); Optical (Red, Green, Blue)
Optical
X-ray
Distance Estimate  About 3.1 billion light years (z=0.259)
distance arrow
Fast Facts for RXJ 1347.5-1145:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Alabama/A. Morandi et al; Optical: SDSS, NASA/STScI
Release Date  April 28, 2016
Scale  Image is 2.2 arcmin across. (about 2.5 million light years)
Category  Groups & Clusters of Galaxies, Cosmology/Deep Fields/X-ray Background
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 13h 47m 33.53s | Dec -11 45' 42.12"
Constellation  Virgo
Observation Dates  3 Sep 2003, 16 Mar, 14 May and 11 Dec 2012
Observation Time  214 ks
Obs. IDs  3592, 13516, 13999, 14407
Instrument  ACIS
References Morandi, A. et al, 2016, MNRAS, 457, 3266; arXiv:1601.03741
Color Code  X-ray (Purple); Optical (Red, Green, Blue)
Optical
X-ray
Distance Estimate  About 4.7 billion light years (z=0.451)
distance arrow
Fast Facts for ZWCL 3146:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Alabama/A. Morandi et al; Optical: SDSS, NASA/STScI
Release Date  April 28, 2016
Scale  Image is 2.5 arcmin across. (about 2.1 million light years)
Category  Groups & Clusters of Galaxies, Cosmology/Deep Fields/X-ray Background
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 10h 23m 39.63s | Dec +04 11' 10.36"
Constellation  Sextans
Observation Dates  10 May 2000, 18 Jan 2008
Observation Time  82 ks
Obs. IDs  909, 9371
Instrument  ACIS
References Morandi, A. et al, 2016, MNRAS, 457, 3266; arXiv:1601.03741
Color Code  X-ray (Purple); Optical (Red, Green, Blue)
Optical
X-ray
Distance Estimate  About 3.3 billion light years (z=0.290)
distance arrow
Visitor Comments (8)

Victoria
How dark matter is created is still very much a mystery to us, as of now there are no definitive answer.
Dark matter would most likely be in the form of a "Halo" around the very outer edges of our solar system, in or even past the cloud.
Dark matter distorts light like any other kind of baryonic matter, because like baryonic matter, it still has gravitational properties. These properties are what allowed us to make our initial observation on dark matter, as our universe is expanding much too rapidly for only the matter which we can see to be there.

Posted by Tristan on Friday, 06.9.17 @ 19:33pm


I think you should deal with this matter like dealing with the smoke to get new info and I think the empty space in atom is dark matter so we can go through the atom to know this secrete matter.

Posted by ALmuathir on Tuesday, 02.7.17 @ 02:05am


I am of the opinion that there is a connection between gravity and dark energy matter.

Posted by George Eames on Thursday, 01.26.17 @ 07:41am


How does one go about presenting theories on dark matter and dark energy?

Posted by Sean McNulty on Wednesday, 01.25.17 @ 07:44am


I'm just 16 years old, but I am really interested in dark matter.
Does anyone know how dark matter is created? Do we have it in our solar system? Why does it distort light?

Posted by Victoria on Tuesday, 01.24.17 @ 19:23pm


Could dark matter be a sloughing off of Black Holes?

Posted by bert braunsteiner on Friday, 12.2.16 @ 18:03pm


I would like to hear more on what astronomers are studying about dark matter.

Posted by Tyler on Tuesday, 09.27.16 @ 22:01pm


Please do not give up on your constant expansion into the darkness. Your efforts are essential to humanity's connection to its true self. It is immeasurably appreciated.

Posted by You are getting closer on Sunday, 09.18.16 @ 14:13pm


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