By making clever use of two types of telescopes, a team of researchers has created stunning images of galaxy clusters. This not only produces beautiful images, but also provides more information about the enormous amounts of energy that are released around supermassive black holes in clusters. The astronomers, led by Ph.D. student Roland Timmerman (Leiden University, the Netherlands), will soon publish their method in the magazine Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Astronomers have long known that supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies produce huge jets. These jets shoot away from the black hole and heat the gas in the wider area. When the jets collide with gas, they form huge lobes tens of thousands of light years in diameter. It can take hundreds of millions of years for these lobes to fade. So, in theory, at least the lobes give astronomers a lot of information about what happened in a cluster.
The problem, however, is that the information is difficult to extract from the lobes. An international team of astronomers has now put an end to that. They combined measurements from the LOFAR radio telescope, whose core is located in the Netherlands, with those from the X-ray satellite Chandra.
Entirely greater than sum
“That combination gives a much better picture of what is going on,” explains researcher Roland Timmerman (Leiden University, the Netherlands).
“It’s cliché, but the whole is really more than the sum of its parts here. Chandra and LOFAR individually can make a pretty reasonable estimate of the amount of energy injected by the black hole into the cluster environment, but together they are even stronger. Previously, this combination was not possible because radio images with sufficient quality to match Chandra’s X-ray images were not available, but because LOFAR antenna stations are now located all over Europe, the resolution is high enough.”
The astronomers now have radio images that are comparable in sharpness to visible light images from the Hubble telescope. To demonstrate their technique, they imaged the Perseus cluster. That’s a group of more than 1,000 galaxies located about 240 million light-years toward the northern constellation Perseus.
Meanwhile, astronomers are creating composite images of other galaxy clusters. With the underlying data, they hope to understand more about the interactions between galaxies and their environment in the early Universe.
Help locate newly discovered black holes in the LOFAR Radio Galaxy Zoo project
R. Timmerman et al, Measuring cavity forces of active galactic nuclei in clusters using a hybrid X-ray radio method. A new window on feedback opened by subarcsecond LOFAR-VLBI observations, Astronomy and Astrophysics (2022). DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/202243936
Quote: Clusters of galaxies easier to view with radio-X-ray combination (2022, October 17) retrieved October 17, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-clusters-galaxies-easier-view-radio.html
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