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Powering an Ultra-Luminous Galaxy Cluster

30 Jul 2014, 22:00 UTC
Powering an Ultra-Luminous Galaxy Cluster
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In some galaxy clusters, the central intracluster gas can become dense enough to cool radiatively within the cluster’s lifetime. This can drive a continuous flow of cooling gas plunging towards the cluster’s centre. The paucity of such cooling flows suggests that in galaxy clusters where such a process might occur, some form of astrophysical feedback kicks in to prevent the development of a runaway cooling flow. A study by M. McDonald et al. (2012) of the Phoenix Cluster (SPT-CLJ2344-4243) reveals it to be one of the most massive galaxy clusters known. The Phoenix Cluster lies at a distance of almost 6 billion light years, and its mass is estimated to be ~2500 trillion times the Sun’s mass. For comparison, the Milky Way, with its few hundred billion stars, is estimated to be only ~1.5 trillion times the Sun’s mass. The Phoenix Cluster also has ~2 trillion times the Sun’s luminosity.Artist’s illustration of the Phoenix Cluster, showing the strong flow of cooling gas sinking towards the central galaxy. Image credit: Chandra X-Ray Observatory.Observations of the Phoenix Cluster by a number of telescopes show the presence of an extremely strong cooling flow bound for the cluster’s centre. The flow rate is estimated ...

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