Two different teams have reported using Chandra observations of galaxy clusters to study the properties of gravity on cosmic scales and test Einstein's theory of General Relativity. Such studies are crucial for understanding the evolution of the universe, both in the past and the future, and for probing the nature of dark energy, one of the biggest mysteries in science.
Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Two spectacular tails of X-ray emission has been seen trailing behind a galaxy using the Chandra X-ray Observatory. A composite image of the galaxy cluster Abell 3627 shows X-rays from Chandra in blue, optical emission in yellow and emission from hydrogen light -- known to astronomers as "H-alpha" -- in red. The optical and H-alpha data were obtained with the Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) Telescope in Chile.
Evidence from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Magellan telescopes suggest a star has been torn apart by an intermediate-mass black hole in a globular cluster. In this image, X-rays from Chandra are shown in blue and are overlaid on an optical image from the Hubble Space Telescope. The Chandra observations show that this object is a so-called ultraluminous X-ray source (ULX). An unusual class of objects, ULXs emit more X-rays than any known stellar X-ray source, but less than the bright X-ray sources associated with supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies. Their exact nature has remained a mystery, but one suggestion is that some ULXs are black holes with masses between about a hundred and a thousands times that of the Sun.
This is a composite image of the most distant galaxy cluster yet detected. This image contains X-rays from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, optical data from the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and optical and infrared data from the Digitized Sky Survey. This record-breaking object, known as JKCS041, is observed as it was when the Universe was just one quarter of its current age. X-rays from Chandra are displayed here as the diffuse blue region, while the individual galaxies in the cluster are seen in white in the VLT's optical data, embedded in the X-ray emission.
This composite image of the Hydra A galaxy cluster shows 10-million-degree gas observed by Chandra in blue and jets of radio emission observed by the Very Large Array in pink. Optical data (in yellow) from the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope and the Digitized Sky Survey shows galaxies in the cluster.
Recently, we released a beautiful image of Stephan's Quintet, showing a group of galaxies and the effects of a galactic collision. In our caption we noted that NGC 7320, the blue galaxy near the bottom of the image, is not a member of the group but is located much closer to the Earth. This is because, as stated in the journal paper by Ewan O'Sullivan, NGC 7320 has a much lower redshift than the other galaxies, and a lower redshift means a smaller distance according to standard cosmology.
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. The curved, light blue ridge running down the center of the image shows X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Four of the galaxies in the group are visible in the optical image (yellow, red, white and blue) from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope.
This composite image shows the massive galaxy cluster MACSJ0717.5+3745 (MACSJ0717, for short), where four separate galaxy clusters have been involved in a collision, the first time such a phenomenon has been documented. Hot gas is shown in an image from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and galaxies are shown in an optical image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The hot gas is color-coded to show temperature, similar to a temperature map of the Earth given in a weather forecast.
This composite image of the Medusa galaxy (also known as NGC 4194) shows X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in blue and optical light from the Hubble Space Telescope in orange. Located above the center of the galaxy and seen in the optical data, the "hair" of the Medusa -- made of snakes in the Greek myth -- is a tidal tail formed by a collision between galaxies. The bright X-ray source found towards the left side of Medusa's hair is a black hole.
Just as astronomers were getting used to the idea of not knowing what dark matter is, they got a completely different surprise at the end of the 20th century. Instead of slowing down after the Big Bang, the expansion of the Universe was found to be accelerating. Astronomers quickly did what they always do when they come up with something mysterious: they gave it a name. Now, we call whatever it is pushing the Universe apart "dark energy", but the truth is no one knows what it is.
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