Feeds

Undead galaxy cluster spews 700 zombie baby stars A YEAR

IT'S ALIVE! IT'S ALIVE!

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Astroboffins have spotted a galaxy cluster that's breaking all the cosmic rules, including coming back to life to spawn stars at an enormous rate.

The Phoenix cluster is spewing out the celestial bodies at the highest rate ever observed for the middle of a galaxy cluster; it's the most powerful producer of X-rays of any known cluster; it's one of the most massive of its kind; and the rate of hot gas cooling in the central regions is the largest ever observed.

According to the scientists, the cluster is "experiencing a massive starburst" that's forming the equivalent of 740 Suns every year.

“Central galaxies have typically been referred to as ‘red and dead’ - just a bunch of old stars orbiting a massive black hole, and there’s nothing new happening,” said Michael McDonald of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), lead author of a study of the cluster. “But the central galaxy in this cluster has somehow come to life, and is giving birth to prodigious numbers of new stars.”

While these "red and dead" central galaxies are effectively space graveyards, boffins have often thought they shouldn't be. That's because the hot gas in a cluster core, gathered from nearby galaxies and supernova explosions, should cool over time and condense to form new stars.

But scientists have never before spotted a cluster that's cooling at a rate to achieve star birth. In typical stellar formations, something prevents the gas from chilling, and one explanation suggests there is a supermassive black hole emitting enough particles to reheat the core.

“What’s interesting about the Phoenix cluster is that we see almost all the cooling that was predicted,” McDonald said. “It could be that this is earlier in the evolution where there’s nothing stopping it, so it cools and becomes a starburst. In fact, there are few things forming stars in the universe faster than this galaxy.”

The starburst at the centre of the Phoenix galaxy cluster

Phoenix cluster starburst

The Phoenix cluster was first spied in 2010 by the South Pole Telescope (SPT), but the boffins have now used NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory - a space telescope - to look at all the large clusters the SPT had found to measure their X-ray strength. Once they saw that the Phoenix was by far the brightest cluster, the researchers used ten different telescopes on Earth and in space to figure out its features.

Although the Phoenix also has a black hole at its centre, the gas is still cooling to form stars.

"The supermassive black hole lurking in the galaxy's nucleus seems to be asleep at the switch,” Brian McNamara, professor of astrophysics at the University of Waterloo, said. “But once the black hole gets going and begins to push the hot atmosphere aside, perhaps in another 100 million years or so, it should shut down cooling and reduce the star formation rate in a feedback process that is active in most galaxy clusters.”

He added that the Phoenix could be an example of how the most massive primeval galaxies formed.

The study was published in Nature. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
The total economic impact of Druva inSync
Examining the ROI enterprises may realize by implementing inSync, as they look to improve backup and recovery of endpoint data in a cost-effective manner.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.