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A2142 - Optical Image with X-ray contours
(Credit: Palomar Digitzed Sky Survey and NASA/CXC/SAO)


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Abell 2142:
Chandra Maps Cosmic Pressure Fronts


Abell 2142
Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO

Chandra X-ray Observatory image of the galaxy cluster Abell 2142. The image shows a colossal cosmic "weather system" produced by the collision of two giant clusters of galaxies. For the first time, the pressure fronts in the system can be traced in detail, and they show a bright, but relatively cool 50 million degree central region (white) embedded in large elongated cloud of 70 million degree gas (magenta), all of which is roiling in a faint atmosphere of 100 million degree gas (faint magenta and dark blue). The bright source in the upper left is an active galaxy in the cluster.

Abell 2142 is six million light years across and contains hundreds of galaxies and enough gas to make a thousand more. It is one of the most massive objects in the universe. Galaxy clusters grow to vast sizes as smaller clusters are pulled inward under the influence of gravity. They collide and merge over the course of billions of years, releasing tremendous amounts of energy that heats the cluster gas. The smoothness of the elongated cloud in the Chandra image suggests that these sub-clusters have collided two or three times in a billion years or more, and have nearly completed their merger.

Fast Facts for Abell 2142:
Credit  NASA/CXC/SAO
Scale  Image is 7.5 x 7.2 arcmin across.
Category  Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 15h 58m 19.80s | Dec +27° 13' 45.00"
Constellation  Corona Borealis
Observation Dates  August 20, 1999
Color Code  Thermal
Instrument  ACIS
Release Date  March 01, 2000