Sharp images obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope confirm that three supernovae discovered several years ago exploded in the dark emptiness of intergalactic space, having been flung from their home galaxies millions or billions of years earlier.
Most supernovae are found inside galaxies containing hundreds of billions of stars, one of which might explode per century per galaxy.
These lonely supernovae, however, were found between galaxies in three large clusters of several thousand galaxies each. The stars’ nearest neighbors were probably 300 light years away, nearly 100 times farther than our sun’s nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, 4.24 light years distant.
uch rare solitary supernovae provide an important clue to what exists in the vast empty spaces between galaxies, and can help astronomers understand how galaxy clusters formed and evolved throughout the history of the universe.
Galaxy groups are the most evident structures in the nearby universe. They are important laboratories for studying how galaxies form and evolve beyond our own Local Group of galaxies, which includes the Milky Way and the Great Spiral in Andromeda. Exploring the nature of these extragalactic “herds” may help to unlock the secrets to the overall structure of the universe.
Unlike animal herds, which are generally the same species traveling together, most galaxies move through space in associations comprised of myriad types, shapes, and sizes. Galaxy groups differ in their richness, size, and internal structure as well as the ages of their members. Some group galaxies are composed mainly of ancient stars, while others radiate with the power and splendor of youth.
These facts raise important questions for astronomers: Do all the galaxies in a group share a common origin? Are some just chance alignments? Or do galaxy groups pick up “strays” along the way and amalgamate them into the group?
Galaxies – spirals laced with nests of recent star formation, quiescent ellipticals composed mainly of old red stars, and numerous faint dwarfs – are the basic visible building blocks of the Universe. Galaxies are rarely found in isolation, but rather in sparse groups – sort of galactic urban sprawl. But there are occasional dense concentrations, often found in the center of giant clusters, but also, intriguingly, as more isolated compact groups (and yes, called Compact Galaxy Groups or CGs). The galaxies in these Compact Groups show dramatic differences in the way they evolve and change with time compared with galaxies in more isolated surroundings. Why is this? Collisions between galaxies in these dense groups are common, leading to rapid star formation, but there seems to be more to the puzzle.
A team led by Dr Iraklis Konstantopoulos of the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) has now obtained spectacular images of some CGs with the Dark Energy camera attached to the Blanco 4-meter telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO). This camera, constructed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, is able to image large areas of the sky to unprecedented faint limits. The team aims to combine these images with spectroscopic data from the AAO that will reveal the velocities of the galaxies, leading to a much better understanding of their gravitational interactions.
An international team of astronomers, led by Imperial College London, used a new way of combining data from the two European Space Agency satellites, Planck and Herschel, to identify more distant galaxy clusters than has previously been possible. The researchers believe up to 2000 further clusters could be identified using this technique, helping to build a more detailed timeline of how clusters are formed.
Galaxy clusters are the most massive objects in the universe, containing hundreds to thousands of galaxies, bound together by gravity. While astronomers have identified many nearby clusters, they need to go further back in time to understand how these structures are formed. This means finding clusters at greater distances from the Earth.
The light from the most distant of the four new clusters identified by the team has taken over 10 billion years to reach us. This means the researchers are seeing what the cluster looked like when the universe was just three billion years old.
Astronomers are inviting the public to search Hubble Space Telescope images of the Andromeda galaxy to help identify star clusters and increase understanding of how galaxies evolve.
The new Andromeda Project, set to study thousands of high-resolution Hubble images, is a collaboration among scientists at the University of Washington, the University of Utah and several other partners.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to discover something new,” said Julianne Dalcanton, UW astronomy professor. “Anyone can look at these beautiful Hubble images and participate in the scientific process. And it’s a huge help to us.”
Full Story: http://www.washington.edu/news/2012/12/04/crowdsourcing-the-cosmos-astronomers-welcome-all-to-identify-star-clusters-in-andromeda-galaxy/
Using a combination of powerful observatories in space and on the ground, astronomers have observed a violent collision between two galaxy clusters in which so-called normal matter has been wrenched apart from dark matterthrough a violent collision between two galaxy clusters.
The newly discovered galaxy cluster is called DLSCL J0916.2+2951. It is similar to the Bullet Cluster, the first system in which the separation of dark and normal matter was observed, but with some important differences. The newly discovered system has been nicknamed the “Musket Ball Cluster” because the cluster collision is older and slower than the Bullet Cluster.
Two teams of astronomers have used data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes to map the distribution of dark matter in a galaxy cluster known as Abell 383, which is located about 2.3 billion light years from Earth. Not only were the researchers able to find where the dark matter lies in the two dimensions across the sky, they were also able to determine how the dark matter is distributed along the line of sight.
Dark matter is invisible material that does not emit or absorb any type of light, but is detectable through its gravitational effects. Several lines of evidence indicate that there is about six times as much dark matter as “normal,” or baryonic, matter in the Universe. Understanding the nature of this mysterious matter is one of the outstanding problems in astrophysics.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally-bound structures in the universe, and play an important role in research on dark matter and cosmology, the study of the structure and evolution of the universe. The use of clusters as dark matter and cosmological probes hinges on scientists’ ability to use objects such as Abell 383 to accurately determine the three-dimensional structures and masses of clusters.