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Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
X-ray Astronomy Field Guide
Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Questions and Answers
Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Chandra Images
Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Animations & Video: Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Page 123456
Click for high-resolution animation
1. Growth of the Coma Colossus
QuicktimeMPEG This picture shows the very large, very distant and very gassy Coma Cluster. It's a giant cluster of over 1000 galaxies that are all bound together by gravity. If you take a close look, you can make out the yellow-white shapes of galaxies scattered across the picture. The pink blobs show arms of multi-million degree gas, hot enough to cook your lungs in half a breath.

All big clusters of galaxies contain this very hot gas. The gas sends out lots of powerful X-rays because it's so hot, and these are what we can see in pink here. You can't see X-rays with your eyes, so astronomers have coloured them in pink. This gas is actually a very helpful tool for us, because the amount of material in the cluster can be measured using just the temperature of the gas! The hotter the gas, the more material there is!

Our Galaxy is also part of a group of galaxies, called the Local Group. Our cluster is also filled with gas, but it's so spread out that we don't see it when we look into the night sky. And because the Local Group is much smaller than the Coma Cluster, the gas around our galaxy isn't nearly as hot.

The gas in this picture also tells another story. The shape of these pink clouds and how they are spread throughout the cluster give us clues into how the Coma Cluster has grown. They show us that smaller groups of galaxies and smaller galaxy clusters have crashed and combined over time. The final result is the colossal Coma Cluster we see today, one of the biggest structures in the entire Universe!
[Runtime: 02:07]
(NASA/CXC/April Jubett)

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2. Tour of Coma Cluster
QuicktimeMPEG Galaxy clusters are the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity. Because they are so big, they play a very important role in the Universe. A new result is revealing clues to how these giant structures grow and evolve over time. Astronomers have discovered enormous arms of hot gas in the Coma cluster of galaxies by using Chandra X-ray Observatory and XMM-Newton, another orbiting X-ray observatory run by the European Space Agency. Researchers think that these arms were most likely formed when smaller galaxy clusters had their gas stripped away by the head wind created by the motion of the clusters through the hot gas -- much the same way that the headwind created by a roller coaster blows the hats off riders. By studying these remarkable arms that span over a half a million light years across, astronomers are taking another step toward understanding the past, present, and perhaps future of these colossal objects.
[Runtime: 01:03]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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Click for high-resolution animation
3. Tour of PKS 0745
QuicktimeMPEG Some of the biggest black holes in the Universe may actually be even bigger than previously thought. This is according to a new survey of 18 of the largest known black holes using data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes. A group of astronomers studied black holes found in the centers of galaxy clusters that are filled with hot gas. They came up with the new estimates of the black hole masses by looking at the amount of X-rays and radio waves they generate. The researchers found that the black holes in the survey may be about ten times more massive than previously thought. This includes at least ten that could weigh between 10 and 40 billion times the mass of the sun, making them "ultramassive" black holes.
[Runtime: 00:52]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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4. Tour of Phoenix Cluster
QuicktimeMPEG Astronomers have found an extraordinary galaxy cluster -- one of the largest objects in the Universe -- that is breaking several important cosmic records. This galaxy cluster has been dubbed the "Phoenix Cluster" because not only is it located in the constellation of the Phoenix, it also possesses some remarkable properties of the mythological creature. While galaxies at the center of most clusters may have been dormant for billions of years, the central galaxy in this cluster seems to have come back to life with a new burst of star formation. The stars are forming at the highest rate ever observed for the middle of a galaxy cluster. Observations with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the NSF's South Pole Telescope and eight other world-class observatories were used to study this object. Taken together, the data from these telescopes also show the Phoenix Cluster is the most powerful producer of X-rays and among the most massive of galaxy clusters. It also has the highest rate of hot gas cooling in the central regions of a cluster ever observed. The new results from the Phoenix Cluster, which is located about 5.7 billion light years from Earth, may force astronomers to rethink how galaxy clusters, and the galaxies that inhabit them, evolve.
[Runtime: 01:21]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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5. Animation of the Phoenix Cluster
QuicktimeMPEG This animation shows how large numbers of stars form in the Phoenix Cluster. It begins by showing several galaxies in the cluster and hot gas (in red). This hot gas contains more normal matter than all of the galaxies in the cluster combined, and can only be detected with X-ray telescopes like Chandra. The camera then flies in towards the large elliptical galaxy at the center of the cluster. The hot gas near this galaxy is giving off copious amounts of X-rays and cooling quickly over time, as shown by the change to a blue color. This cooling causes gas to flow inwards along filaments and form huge numbers of stars when it continues to cool.
[Runtime: 0.45]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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6. Tour of DLSCL J0916.2+2951
QuicktimeMPEG Using a combination of powerful observatories in space and on the ground, astronomers have discovered a violent collision between two galaxy clusters. During this collision, so-called normal matter has been wrenched apart from dark matter through a violent collision between two galaxy clusters. We see the normal matter in the form of hot gas thanks to X-rays detected by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The location of the dark matter comes from optical data that reveal the effects of gravitational lensing, something Einstein predicted where large masses can distort the light from distant objects. The new galaxy cluster is called DLSCL J0916.2+2951. Rather than say that mouthful, researchers have nicknamed it the "Musket Ball Cluster." This name makes sense because this system is like an older and slower cousin to the famous Bullet Cluster. Finding another system that is further along in its evolution than the Bullet Cluster is very valuable. It gives scientists insight into a different phase of how galaxy clusters -- the largest known objects held together by gravity -- grow and change after major collisions.
[Runtime: 1:22]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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7. Tour of 3C186
QuicktimeMPEG A galaxy cluster containing a structure never previously seen so far from Earth has been observed by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The cluster is also interesting to astronomers because a bright quasar, known as 3C 186, is found at its center. Dr. Aneta Siemiginowska of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics led the team's research on this result and discusses it with us.
[Runtime: 03.30]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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8. Tour of Abell 383
QuicktimeMPEG Dark matter is mysterious. We know that it is invisible material that does not emit or absorb any type of light, but we can detect it through the gravitational effects it has on material we can see. Many scientists consider figuring out what dark matter is to be one of the biggest outstanding problems in astrophysics. Therefore, getting any new information about dark matter can help. Two teams of astronomers have used data from Chandra and other telescopes to map where the dark matter is in the galaxy cluster known as Abell 383. Not only were they able to find where dark matter lies in the two dimensions across the sky, they were also able to determine how the dark matter is distributed along the line of sight, or three dimensionally. So while there's still a long way to go before we know what dark matter is, results like these give astronomers important clues in this compelling cosmic mystery.
[Runtime: 00:59]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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9. Images of the "El Gordo" Galaxy Cluster
QuicktimeMPEG This sequence of images shows "El Gordo" in X-ray light from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, optical data from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, and infrared emission from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, before revealing a composite of all of the wavelengths. Galaxy clusters are the largest objects in the universe that are held together by gravity, and can be used to study many things. Finding a galaxy cluster like El Gordo when the universe was less than half its current age helps astronomers better understand how the universe was evolving at that epoch.
[Runtime: 00.12]
(X-ray: NASA/CXC/Rutgers/J. Hughes et al; Optical: ESO/VLT& SOAR/Rutgers/F. Menanteau; IR: NASA/JPL/Rutgers/F. Menanteau)

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10. Tour of El Gordo
QuicktimeMPEG Astronomers using the Chandra X-ray Observatory and ground-based optical telescopes have discovered an extraordinary galaxy cluster some 7 billion light years from Earth. This cluster has been nicknamed "El Gordo," which means the "big" or "fat" one in Spanish. The nickname is a nod to the telescope in Chile that was used to help discover it, but also to the fact that El Gordo is the most massive, the hottest, and gives off more X-rays than any other galaxy cluster at this distance or beyond. The X-rays from Chandra and optical data from the VLT show that El Gordo is, in fact, the collision of two galaxy clusters ramming into one another at millions of miles per hour. This makes a younger cousin to the well-known Bullet Cluster. Galaxy clusters are very important for many reasons. As the largest objects in the Universe that are held together by gravity, galaxy clusters can be used to study the mysterious phenomena of dark matter and dark energy.
[Runtime: 1.07]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

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