Groups & Clusters of Galaxies

Heating from Cosmic Chaos

Irina Zhuravleva
Irina Zhuravleva

We are pleased to welcome Irina Zhuravleva as a guest blogger today. Irina is the first author of a new paper describing a crucial role of gas turbulence in interaction between supermassive black holes and hot gas in galaxy clusters, the subject of our latest press release. Irina studied theoretical astrophysics in the department of mathematics and mechanics at Saint Petersburg State University in Russia, followed by a PhD in astrophysics at Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany. After that she moved to San Francisco area as a postdoctoral researcher at KIPAC, Stanford University.

Chaotic, turbulent flows are commonly encountered in everyday life: swirling eddies of milk poured into coffee, flickering flames of a campfire, external flows over cars and ships, white froth from breaking waves in the ocean, quaint patterns of clouds in the sky and pyroclastic flow in a volcanic eruption.

NASA's Chandra Observatory Identifies Impact of Cosmic Chaos on Star Birth

Perseus Virgo

These two Chandra images of galaxy clusters - known as Perseus and Virgo - have provided direct evidence that turbulence is helping to prevent stars from forming. These new results could answer a long-standing question about how these galaxy clusters keep their enormous reservoirs of hot gas from cooling down to form stars, as discussed in our latest press release.

A Flash in the Dark!

Esra Bulbul

We are delighted to welcome Esra Bulbul as a guest blogger. Esra led the new study reporting evidence for a mysterious X-ray signal in galaxy clusters, leading to our latest press release. She earned her master’s degree in physics from the Middle East Technical University in the capital city, Ankara, in Turkey in 2006. Four years later she graduated with a PhD in physics from the University of Alabama in Huntsville / NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. After receiving her Ph.D. she moved to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics as a Smithsonian Astrophysical Fellow working jointly at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center as a visiting scientist. She is now back at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and enjoys living in the greater Boston area.

When I started my first postdoc at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, I already knew that one alternative way to improve the sensitivity of current instruments like Chandra and XMM-Newton is to “stack” large numbers of observations of galaxy clusters, meaning that we layer one observation on top of another.

The great advantage of stacking observations is not only an increased signal-to-noise ratio (that is, the amount of useful signal compared to background noise), but also the diminished effects of detector and background features. The X-ray background emission and instrumental noise are the main obstacles in the analysis of faint objects, such as galaxy clusters.

Mysterious X-ray Signal Intrigues Astronomers


A new study of the Perseus galaxy cluster, shown in this image, using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and 73 other clusters with ESA's XMM-Newton has revealed a mysterious X-ray signal in the data. This signal is represented in the circled data points in the inset, which is a plot of X-ray intensity as a function of X-ray energy. The signal is also seen in over 70 other galaxy clusters using XMM-Newton. This unidentified X-ray emission line - that is, a spike of intensity at a very specific energy, in this case centered on about 3.56 kiloelectron volts (keV) - requires further investigation to confirm both the signal's existence and nature as described in the latest Chandra press release.

Life Is Too Fast, Too Furious for This Runaway Galaxy

ESO 137-001

The spiral galaxy ESO 137-001 looks like a dandelion caught in a breeze in this new composite image from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The galaxy is zooming toward the upper right of this image, in between other galaxies in the Norma cluster located over 200 million light-years away. The road is harsh: intergalactic gas in the Norma cluster is sparse, but so hot at 180 million degrees Fahrenheit that it glows in X-rays detected by Chandra (blue).


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