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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
Click for high-resolution animation
1. Tour of Hydra A
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

This composite image of the Hydra A galaxy cluster shows 10-million-degree gas observed by Chandra and jets of radio emission observed by the Very Large Array. The galaxies in the cluster are seen in optical light by two ground-based telescopes. At the center of Hydra A is a supermassive black hole that has experienced powerful outbursts. These outbursts pushed the material surrounding the black hole, creating giant cavities seen in the Chandra data. These cavities were then filled with material from jets seen in the radio data. The Chandra data reveal that the gas located along the direction of the radio jets is enhanced with iron and other metals. Scientists think that these elements, vital for stars, planets, and ultimately life, were forged in supernova explosions in the large galaxy at the center of the cluster.
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(X-ray: NASA/CXC/U.Waterloo/C.Kirkpatrick et al.; Radio: NSF/NRAO/VLA; Optical: Canada-France-Hawaii-Telescope/DSS)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
2. Tour of Stephan's Quintet
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

This beautiful image gives a new look at Stephan's Quintet, a compact group of galaxies discovered about 130 years ago and located about 280 million light years from Earth. A view in optical light from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea clearly shows four individual galaxies. A fifth, harder-to-see galaxy is plunging its way through the system at almost two million miles per hour. This extreme motion generates a shock wave that heats the gas between the galaxies. This in turn causes the gas to glow strongly in X-rays, and that's detected by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Stephan's Quintet provides a rare opportunity for astronomers to observe a group of galaxies in a crucial stage of its evolution.
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(X-ray (NASA/CXC/CfA/E.O'Sullivan); Optical (Canada-France-Hawaii-Telescope/Coelum))

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
3. Tour of MacsJ0717
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

This image contains one of the most complex galaxy clusters known, which is located about 5.4 billion light years from Earth. In this system known as MacsJ0717 for short, 4 separate galaxy clusters have collided. This is the first time such a complex crash of galaxy clusters has been documented. In this composite image, data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory reveal the cluster's hot gas, while an optical image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the individual galaxies in the system. The gas in this image is color-coded to show temperature, just like a weather map for Earth. In this case however, the temperatures range from millions to tens of millions of degrees, where the coolest gas here is colored red, the hottest gas is blue, and the temperatures in between are purple.
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(X-ray (NASA/CXC/IfA/C. Ma et al.); Optical (NASA/STScI/IfA/C. Ma et al.))

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
4. Tour of Medusa
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

NGC 4194 is a galaxy that is found about 110 million light years from Earth. This image of NGC 4194, also known as the Medusa galaxy, is a composite of X-rays from Chandra, seen in blue, and optical light data from Hubble, which are colored orange. Located above the center of the galaxy, the "hair" of Medusa is a tidal tail formed by a collision between galaxies. The bright X-ray source found on the left side of Medusa's hair is a black hole. A recent study of the Medusa galaxy and nine other galaxies measured the connection between the formation of stars and the production of so-called X-ray binaries. These systems, which contain either a black hole or a neutron star in orbit around a normal star, appear as the bright blue point-like sources in this image of Medusa.
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(X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Iowa/P.Kaaret et al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/Univ of Iowa/P.Kaaret et al.)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
5. Tour of Abell 85
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

The composite image shows the galaxy cluster known as Abell 85, which is located about 740 million light years from Earth. The purple emission is multi-million degree gas detected in X-rays by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the other colors show galaxies in an optical image from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. This galaxy cluster is one of 86 observed by Chandra to trace how dark energy has stifled the growth of these massive structures over the last 7 billion years. Galaxy clusters are the largest collapsed objects in the Universe and are ideal for studying the properties of dark energy, the mysterious form of repulsive gravity that is driving the accelerated expansion of the Universe. Understanding the nature of dark energy is one of the biggest mysteries in science today.
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(Credits: X-ray (NASA/CXC/SAO/A.Vikhlinin et al.); Optical (SDSS))

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
6. Tour of M87
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

M87 is a giant elliptical galaxy. At a distance of about 60 million light-years from Earth, M87 is the largest galaxy in the Virgo cluster of some 2,000 galaxies. Bright jets moving at close to the speed of light are seen at nearly all wavelengths, powered by the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. In X-rays, M87 shows evidence for a series of outbursts from the black hole. These outbursts appear as loops and bubbles in the data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The Hubble Space Telescope shows that the monstrous elliptical galaxy is also home to trillions of stars and thousands of globular clusters. Because of its proximity and brightness, as well as its intriguing properties, M87 is one of the most popular targets for amateur and professional astronomers alike.
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(X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/W. Forman et al.; Radio: NRAO/AUI/NSF/W. Cotton; Optical: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and R. Gendler)

Related Chandra Images:
  • Photo Album: M87

Click for high-resolution animation
7. Tour of Abell 1689
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

Abell 1689 is a massive cluster of galaxies located about 2.3 billion light-years away. An image obtained by the Chandra X-ray Observatory shows hot gas that fills the space between the galaxies. This gas is about 100 million degrees, and therefore glows brightly in X-rays. An image in optical light taken with the Hubble Space Telescope shows the individual galaxies not seen in the Chandra image. Some of the galaxies in the Hubble image that lie beyond the cluster appear as long arcs because their light has been distorted by the immense mass in the intervening galaxy cluster. Taken together, the data from Chandra and Hubble show that Abell 1689 is a galaxy cluster that is in the process of merging with another. Astronomers are studying Abell 1689 to learn more about the distribution of mass as well as the unseen dark matter that is thought to pervade the system.
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(X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/E.-H Peng et al; Optical: NASA/STScI)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
8. Tour of Perseus A
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

The giant galaxy, Perseus A, which is also known as NGC 1275, is a well-known source of strong radio radiation. This object is also a bright emitter of X-rays due to the presence of a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. This mammoth galaxy lies at the center of the cluster of galaxies known as Perseus.

By combining images from several telescopes into a single composite, the dynamics of the galaxy are more easily visible. Detail and structure from X-ray, optical and radio wavelengths combine for a beautiful yet violent depiction of the events going on at the heart of the galaxy. In the composite image, the X-ray data are seen as the soft purple shells around the outside of the galaxy. The pinkish lobes toward the center of the galaxy are from radio frequencies. The radio emission, tracing jets from the black hole, fills the X-ray cavities. Dust lanes, star-forming regions, hydrogen filaments, foreground stars and background galaxies are all contributions from Hubble’s optical data.
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(X-ray: NASA/CXC/IoA/A.Fabian et al.; Radio: NRAO/VLA/G. Taylor; Optical: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA) & Univ. of Cambridge/IoA/A. Fabian)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
9. Tour of Macs J0025.4-1222
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

Two galaxy clusters, each a quadrillion times the mass of the Sun, collided to form the system formally known as Macs J0025.4-1222. When these clusters merged at speeds of millions of miles per hour, the hot gas in each cluster collided and slowed down, but the dark matter in each system did not. Optical images from Hubble were used to infer the distribution of the total mass, which includes dark matter, using a technique known as gravitational lensing. This is seen as blue in the image. Chandra data enabled astronomers to accurately map the position of the ordinary matter, mostly in the form of hot gas, which glows brightly in X-rays and is colored pink in the composite. The separation between the pink and the blue provides direct evidence for the existence of dark matter.

In some ways, Macs J0025 can be thought of as a prequel to the famous system known as the Bullet Cluster. At a much larger distance of 5.7 billion light years, astronomers are witnessing this collision that occurred long before the Bullet Cluster. This finding is important because it independently verifies the results found for the Bullet Cluster in 2006, and shows once again that dark matter is real.
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(X-ray(NASA/CXC/Stanford/S.Allen); Optical/Lensing(NASA/STScI/UC Santa Barbara/M.Bradac))

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
10. Zoom into Spiral Galaxy C153
QuicktimeMPEG This video zooms into the C153 spiral galaxy found in the galaxy cluster Abell 2125. The initial view moves from the NOAO telescope wide-field mosaic into the Hubble Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 image of C153. The Hubble image then dissolves into the composite detail of X-ray, radio and optical images.
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