A Tour of Abell 3411
Narrator (April Hobart, CXC): There are many extraordinary things in the Universe. For example, astronomers have found many examples of supermassive black holes erupting in powerful outbursts that can stretch for millions of miles. They have also seen galaxy clusters — the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity — smash into one another, releasing amazing amounts of energy.
For the first time, however, astronomers have found out what happens when two of these spectacular events join forces. Abell 3411 and Abell 3412 are a pair of colliding galaxy clusters located about 2 billion light years from Earth. By combining X-rays from Chandra with data from other telescopes, astronomers were able to probe what was really happening in this remarkable system.
They found evidence that supermassive black holes have erupted within the merging clusters. At least one of these black hole eruptions has produced a tightly-wound, rotating magnetic funnel, which in turn has created a jet of high-speed and energetic particles.
These pumped up particles have then been swept up in the collision between Abell 3411 and Abell 3412, creating a cosmic double whammy. The result of all of this? The creation of a stupendous particle accelerator that produces energies far above anything that could ever be created here on Earth.