Monday, February 04, 2013

Galaxy 'Crash Scene' Is One Of Universe's Biggest Structures, Astrophysicist Says | SPACE NEWS

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Galaxy 'Crash Scene' Is One Of Universe's Biggest Structures, Astrophysicist Says

By Charles Q. Choi via The Huffington Post

      A glowing cosmic structure millions of light-years long represents the aftermath of the impact of two merging galaxy clusters, researchers say.

"This is one of the biggest structures ever observed," study lead author Ettore Carretti told "It is more than 100 times the size of our galaxy, the Milky Way, which already stretches for 100,000 light-years."

Carretti, an astrophysicist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia, and his colleagues used the Parkes Radio Telescope in New South Wales to analyze a cluster of galaxies known as Abell 3667. The cluster lies about 730 million light-years from Earth. (A light-year is the distance light travels in one year, about 5.9 trillion miles, or 9.5 trillion kilometers.)

"Clusters of galaxies are made of thousands of galaxies and are among the largest gravitationally bound structures," Carretti noted.

The researchers detected a diffuse radio glow in the gas and dust connecting the cluster's periphery to its core. The structure is about 13 million light-years long. [Biggest Structure in the Universe Explained (Infographic)]

Carretti said: "This is the first clear imaging of a huge impact between two merging clusters of galaxies. The overall structure we observe, part of which was already known, is a monster shock wave and its trailing wake caused by the cluster impact. The wake is the leftover after the passage of the shock, which leaves behind a turbulent 'shaken' medium." . . .

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