MIT Scientists Discover A Sprawling Galaxy Cluster Hiding In Plain Sight

Posted: Aug 18 2018, 11:42am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 18 2018, 11:47am CDT, in Latest Science News


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MIT Scientists Discover a Sprawling Galaxy Cluster Hiding in Plain Sight
Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The central quasar of galaxy cluster is so bright that it has obscured the cluster itself

Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have found evidence of a previously unknown galaxy cluster. The sprawling galaxy cluster is located just 2.4 billion light years from Earth and contains hundreds of individual galaxies. The galaxies inside the cluster are huge, about 690 trillion times massive than sun. By comparison, our Milky Way galaxy has a mass around 400 billion solar masses.

Because the particular galaxy cluster surrounds an extremely active supermassive black hole, it remained hidden from scientists the entire time. The cluster should be easy to observe but its central supermassive black hole or quasar, named PKS1353-341, is so bright that it obscured the cluster itself.

It is estimated that the quasar is 46 billion times brighter than the sun. Its extreme luminosity is likely the result of an immense disk of material swirling around the object. The big chunks of matter from the disk fall in the quasar. All this eating unleashes intense bursts of light that temporarly hides everything around it.

“This might be a short-lived phase that clusters go through, where the central black hole has a quick meal, gets bright, and then fades away again," said study author Michael McDonald, a professor of physics in MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. "This could be a blip that we just happened to see. In a million years, this might look like a diffuse fuzzball."

The discovery is based on the results of survey named ChiPS or Clusters Hiding in Plain Sight, which is designed to reanalyze X-ray images taken in the past. It has so far confirmed one new galaxy cluster with an extremely bright central black hole.

“The brightness of the black hole might be related to how much it's eating," said McDonald. "This is thousands of times brighter than a typical black hole at the center of a cluster, so it's very extreme in its feeding. We have no idea how long this has been going on or will continue to go on. Finding more of these things will help us understand, is this an important process, or just a weird thing that there's only one of in the universe."

Researchers suspect that there may be other similar galaxy clusters hiding behind extremely bright objects that looked like a solitary light source from a single galaxy. These structures will help scientists understand how much matter there is in the universe and how fast the universe is expanding.

McDonald says. “If you know where all the galaxy clusters are in the universe, which are the biggest pieces in the universe, and how big they are, and you have some information about what the universe looked like in the beginning, which we know from the Big Bang, then you could map out how the universe expanded."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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