Stanford News July 6, 2016Stanford researchers help to explain how stars are born, cosmic structures evolve
An international team of scientists including Stanford researchers unveiled new findings on understanding the dynamic behavior of galaxy clusters and ties to cosmic evolution.
By Manuel Gnida
Working with information sent from the Japanese Hitomi satellite, an international team of researchers that include Stanford scientists has obtained the first views of a supermassive black hole stirring hot gas at the heart of a galaxy cluster, like a spoon stirring cream into coffee.
This image created by physicists at Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory illustrates how supermassive black holes at the center of galaxy clusters could heat intergalactic gas, preventing it from cooling and forming stars. (Image credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)
These motions (see video here) could explain why galaxy clusters form far fewer stars than expected – a puzzling property that affects the way cosmic structures evolve.
The data, published today in Nature, were recorded with the X-ray satellite during its first month in space earlier this year, just before it spun out of control and disintegrated due to a chain of technical malfunctions.
“Being able to measure gas motions is a major advance in understanding the dynamic behavior of galaxy clusters and its ties to cosmic evolution,” said study co-author Irina Zhuravleva, a postdoctoral researcher at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC). “Although the Hitomi mission ended tragically after a very short period of time, it’s fair to say that it has opened a new chapter in X-ray astronomy.”
KIPAC is a joint institute of Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
Galaxy clusters, which consist of hundreds to thousands of individual galaxies held together by gravity, also contain large amounts of gas. Over time, the gas should cool down and clump together …