March of Progress: X-ray, radio and optical images of Centaurus galaxy cluster
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MPE/J. Sanders et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI; Radio: NSF/NRAO/VLA

Scientists Working Together

Moving beyond the narrow boundaries of specific knowledge provides a much fuller picture of the way the Universe works. In astronomy, this often means reaching across the wavelength confines of the electromagnetic spectrum to probe physical process which occur on a wide variety of energy scales. A recent example of this is shown in the image above, which is a combination of X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (shown in red), radio data obtained by the National Science Foundation's Karl Jansky Very Large Array (in blue), and a Hubble Space Telescope optical image (in green) of the Centaurus cluster of galaxies. The combined data reveal how the hot, X-ray emitting gas seen by Chandra (which, interestingly enough, contains most of the normal, treble-quarked "baryonic" matter in the cluster) has been disturbed by sporadic outbursts from a single supermassive black hole at the center of one of the cluster galaxies, NGC 4696. These black hole eruptions have produced enormous cavities in the hot gas, which are filled with cooler gas seen by the Jansky Array, while Hubble helps determine the total mass of the cluster, including the dark matter. Similar cavities have also been seen in the hot gas trapped within the Perseus galaxy cluster. This collaboration helps reveal in detail how giant outbursts from the (relatively tiny) black hole at the center of NGC 4696 has changed the structure of the hot gas over enormous distances, and how it has enriched the intracluster space with iron and other complex chemical elements needed for life.
Published: April 24, 2017

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Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!
Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Monday, 24-Apr-2017 07:32:54 EDT