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Gigantic ball of fire discovered.
An international team of Astronomers have discovered a massive gas ball hurtling through a distant Galaxy cluster. This ball of gas is travelling more than 750 km/second (466 miles/second) through Galaxy cluster Abell 3266. The enormous speed and pressure has heated the gas up to the point that it blazes in the X-ray spectrum. The discovery was made using ESA's XMM-Newton X-ray satellite.
Thanks to data from ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray satellite, a team of international scientists found a comet-like ball of gas over a thousand million times the mass of the Sun hurling through a distant Galaxy cluster over 750 kilometres per second.
The gas ball is about three million light years across, or about five thousand million times the size of our solar system. It appears from our perspective as a circular X-ray glow with a comet-like tail nearly half the size of the moon.
“The size and velocity of this gas ball is truly fantastic,” said Dr Alexis Finoguenov, adjunct assistant professor of physics in the Department of physics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), and an associated scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Extra-Terrestrial physics in Garching, Germany. “This is likely a massive building block being delivered to one of the largest assembly of galaxies we know.”
“What interests Astronomers is not just the size of the gas ball but the role it plays in the formation and evolution of structure in the universe,” said Dr Francesco Miniati, who worked on this data at UMBC while visiting from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland.
Abell cluster 3266 is part of the Horologium-Reticulum super-cluster and is one of the most massive Galaxy clusters in the southern sky. It is still actively growing in size, as indicated by the gas ball, and will become one of the largest mass concentrations in the nearby universe.
“In Abell 3266 we are seeing structure formation in action,” said Prof. Mark Henriksen (UMBC), co-author of the results. “Dark matter is the gravitational glue holding the gas ball together. But as it races through the Galaxy cluster, a tug-of-war ensues where the Galaxy cluster eventually wins, stripping off and dispersing gas that perhaps one day will seed star and Galaxy growth within the cluster.”
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