Planets and moons aren’t the only places we see documented destruction in our Universe.
In fact, we have new images from the Chandra X-Ray observatory of galaxy clusters that have tried to pass through one another and, in the process, have only torn themselves apart.
Roughly four million years ago, two systems of hundreds to thousands of galaxies collided. Since both of these systems were mostly empty space, the bulk of the stars and other dense objects passed through each other without experiencing too large an effect, but the intergalactic gas in these systems collided, and gravitational tidal effects rearranged both systems. The resulting carnage glows brightly in X-Ray, where the hot gas in the cores of the two systems shines brightest. A bridge of heated gas connects the cores.
This system is collectively called Abell 2394, and while it was discovered decades ago, this research uncovered one surprising new detail.
At the outskirts of the smaller of the two sub-clusters, a particularly active galaxy has a particularly active supermassive black hole with jets that are so powerful they are reshaping the bridge of material between the systems. This work is described in a new paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society that was led by Viral Parekh, and it follows the active galaxy from the X-Ray out to the radio, where it is possible to resolve massive radio lobes pushing out and colliding with the hot X-Ray gas, showing once again that to understand a system, you need to study it in detail using the entirety of the electromagnetic spectrum. In this case, they found one supermassive black hole able to drive the formation of jets that shape a 6 trillion Solar mass bridge of material.
The moral of the news is: something small can have one hell of an impact on the mighty.
- Chandra X-Ray Observatory article
- “A rare case of FR I interaction with a hot X-ray bridge in the A2384 galaxy cluster,” V. Parekh et al., 2020 January, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (free on arXiv.org)