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Beyond Earthly Skies

Powering an Ultra-Luminous Galaxy Cluster

30 Jul 2014, 22:00 UTC
Powering an Ultra-Luminous Galaxy Cluster
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

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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