Galaxy clusters made easier to study thanks to a combination of radio-X-rays

(ORDO NEWS) — Through a combination of two types of telescopes, the research team has obtained stunning images of galaxy clusters.

This method not only produces beautiful images, but also provides more information about the huge amount of energy released around supermassive black holes in clusters.

Astronomers led by Roland Timmermann (Leiden University, The Netherlands) will soon publish their method in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Astronomers have long known that supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies produce huge jets. These jets shoot out of the black hole and heat the gas around them.

When the jets collide with gas, they form huge petals tens of thousands of light-years across. It may take hundreds of millions of years for these petals to disappear. So, in theory, the petals could give astronomers a lot of information about what happened in the cluster.

The problem, however, is that it is quite difficult to get information from them. An international team of astronomers has solved this problem. They combined measurements from the LOFAR radio telescope, whose core is located in the Netherlands, with data from the Chandra X-ray satellite.

“This combination gives a much better picture of the whole process,” explains researcher Roland Timmerman (Leiden University, The Netherlands).

“No matter how trite it may sound, but here the whole is much more than just the sum

of the parts. Chandra and LOFAR alone can give a fairly plausible estimate of the amount of energy a black hole is spewing into clusters, but combined they are even more powerful.

Previously, such a combination was not possible because there were no radio images available with sufficient quality to match the X-ray images of Chandra. Since LOFAR antenna stations are now all over Europe, the resolution has become quite high.”

Astronomers now have radio images comparable in clarity to visible-light images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

To demonstrate their technique, they photographed the Perseus Cluster. It is a group of more than a thousand galaxies located approximately 240 million light-years away in the direction of the northern constellation Perseus.

Meanwhile, astronomers are creating composite images of other galaxy clusters. Using the underlying data, they hope to better understand the interactions between galaxies and their environments in the early universe.


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