Images by Date
Images by Category
Solar System
White Dwarfs
Neutron Stars
Black Holes
Milky Way Galaxy
Normal Galaxies
Galaxy Clusters
Cosmology/Deep Field
Images by Interest
Space Scoop for Kids
Sky Map
Photo Blog
Top Rated Images
Image Handouts
Fits Files
Image Tutorials
Photo Album Tutorial
False Color
Cosmic Distance
Look-Back Time
Scale & Distance
Angular Measurement
Images & Processing
Image Use Policy
Web Shortcuts
Chandra Blog
RSS Feed
Email Newsletter
News & Noteworthy
Image Use Policy
Questions & Answers
Glossary of Terms
Download Guide
Get Adobe Reader
Abell 2384: Bending the Bridge Between Two Galaxy Clusters
Abell 2384
Abell 2384
Abell 2384

  • A bridge of gas extending over three million light years from two galaxy clusters has been spotted.

  • The two clusters collided several hundred million years ago and then passed through each other to arrive in this configuration.

  • The collision released a large amount of hot gas that now spans the distance between the two clusters.

  • This superheated bridge of gas glows brightly in X-rays, which Chandra and XMM-Newton have detected.

Several hundred million years ago, two galaxy clusters collided and then passed through each other. This mighty event released a flood of hot gas from each galaxy cluster that formed an unusual bridge between the two objects. This bridge is now being pummeled by particles driven away from a supermassive black hole.

Galaxy clusters are the largest objects in the universe held together by gravity. They contain hundreds or thousands of galaxies, vast amounts of multi-million-degree gas that glow in X-rays, and enormous reservoirs of unseen dark matter.

The system known as Abell 2384 shows the giant structures that can result when two galaxy clusters collide. A superheated gas bridge in Abell 2384 is shown in this composite image of X-rays from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton (blue), as well as the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India (red). This new multi-wavelength view reveals the effects of a jet shooting away from a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy in one of the clusters. The jet is so powerful that it is bending the shape of the gas bridge, which extends for over 3 million light years and has the mass of about 6 trillion Suns.

A2384 X-ray labeled
X-ray Image, Labeled (Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/V.Parekh, et al.)

A labeled version of the image traces the shape of the bridge, marks the position of the supermassive black hole, and shows where the jet is pushing the hot gas in the bridge sideways at the collision site. The lobe of radio emission marking the end of each jet is also shown. At the collision site, astronomers found evidence for a shock front, similar to a sonic boom from a supersonic aircraft, which can keep the gas hot and prevent it from cooling to form new stars.

The radio emission extends about 1.2 million light years from the black hole to the north and about 1.7 million light years to the south. The northern radio emission is also fainter than the southern emission. These differences might be explained by the radio emission to the north being slowed down by the jet's impact with the hot gas in the bridge.

A2384 Radio labeled
Radio Image, Labeled (Credit: NASA/CXC/NCRA/GMRT)

Chandra has often observed cavities in hot gas created by jets in the centers of galaxy clusters, such as the Perseus cluster, MS 0735 and the Ophiuchus Cluster. However, Abell 2384 offers a rare case of such an interaction occurring in the outer region of a cluster. It is also unusual that the supermassive black hole driving the jet is not in the largest galaxy located in the center of the cluster.

Astronomers consider objects like Abell 2384 to be important for understanding the growth of galaxy clusters. Based on computer simulations, it has been shown that after a collision between two galaxy clusters, they oscillate like a pendulum and pass through each other several times before merging to form a larger cluster. Based on these simulations, astronomers think that the two clusters in Abell 2384 will eventually merge.

Abell 2384 is located 1.2 billion light years from Earth. Based on previous work, scientists estimate the total mass of Abell 2384 is 260 trillion times the mass of the Sun. This includes the dark matter, hot gas and the individual galaxies.

A paper describing this work was published in the January 2020 issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, and is available online. The authors are Viral Parekh (South African Radio Astronomy Observatory and Rhodes University, South Africa); Tatiana Lagana (Universidade Cruzeiro do Sul/Universidade Cidade de São Paulo, Brazil); Kshitij Thorat (Rhodes University); Kurt van der Heyden (University of Cape Town, South Africa); Asif Iqbal Ahanger (Raman Research Institute, India); and Florence Durret (Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris and Sorbonne Université, France).

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Chandra X-ray Center controls science and flight operations from Cambridge and Burlington, Massachusetts.


Fast Facts for Abell 2384:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/V.Parekh, et al. & ESA/XMM-Newton; Radio: NCRA/TIFR/GMRT; Optical: DSS
Release Date  May 11, 2020
Scale  Image is about 50 arcmin (17 million light years) across.
Category  Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 21h 52m 18.9s | Dec -19° 34´ 42"
Constellation  Capricornus
Observation Date  November 18, 2002
Observation Time  8 hours 4 min
Obs. ID  4202
Instrument  ACIS
References Parekh et al., 2020, MNRAS, 491, 2605. arXiv:1910.12955
Color Code  X-ray: Blue/white; Radio: Magenta; Optical: yellow
Distance Estimate  About 1.2 billion light years (z=0.0943)
distance arrow
Rate This Image

Rating: 3.9/5
(315 votes cast)
Download & Share

More Information
Blog: Abell 2384
More Images
X-ray Image of Abell 2384
Jpg, Tif
a2384 Cluster X-ray image

More Images
Animation & Video
A Tour of Abell 2384

More Animations
Related Images
Perseus Cluster
Perseus Cluster
(01 Sep 2003)
MS 0735
MS 0735
(2 Nov 2006)
(27 Feb 2020)

Related Information
Related Podcast
Top Rated Images
Timelapses: Crab Nebula and Cassiopeia A

Chandra Releases 3D Instagram Experiences