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In 2012, astronomers announced the discovery of an extraordinary object. This galaxy cluster, which was found about 5.7 billion light years from Earth, shattered several important astronomical records. For example, it had the highest rate of cooling hot gas and star formation ever seen in the center of a galaxy cluster. Chandra observations also showed that it was the most powerful producer of X-rays of all known clusters. And, the rate at which hot gas is cooling in the center of the cluster was also the largest ever observed. The astronomers that found it nicknamed this system the Phoenix Cluster because it was found in the constellation of the Phoenix, and some of its behaviors resembled a galaxy cluster being brought back to life through new star formation.

Three years later, astronomers have gathered even more data on the Phoenix Cluster in X-ray, optical and ultraviolet light. These new observations have helped astronomers better understand what's happening in this object. They see holes, or cavities, in the X-ray data from Chandra that are surrounded by massive filaments of gas and dust. The combination of the X-ray cavities with the filaments may be responsible for the ultra-high rate of new stars forming in the Phoenix Cluster. Overall, the extreme properties of the Phoenix cluster system are providing new insights into various astrophysical problems, including the formation of stars, the growth of galaxies and black holes, and the co-evolution of black holes and their environment.
[Runtime: 01:56]

(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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