Turbulence Could be a Reason Some Galaxy Clusters Don’t Form Huge Numbers of Stars

Turbulence created by supermassive black holes near the center of galaxies within galaxy clusters could be the culprit 

Chandra observations of the Perseus and Virgo galaxy clusters suggest turbulence may be preventing hot gas there from cooling, addressing a long-standing question of galaxy clusters do not form large numbers of stars. Image Credit: NASA/CXC/Stanford/I. Zhuravleva et al
Chandra observations of the Perseus and Virgo galaxy clusters suggest turbulence may be preventing hot gas there from cooling, addressing a long-standing question of galaxy clusters do not form large numbers of stars.
Image Credit: NASA/CXC/Stanford/I. Zhuravleva et al

Space news ( December 18, 2014) Deep within the Perseus and Virgo galaxy clusters – 

NASA astronomers studying the birth and death of stars in huge galaxy clusters recently viewed the Perseus and Virgo galaxy clusters, using the Chandra X-ray Observatory, looking for clues to the mystery surrounding the lack of stars in these galaxy clusters.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory (formerly the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility, or AXAF) was built around a high-resolution grazing incidence X-ray telescope which will make astrophysical observations in the 0.09 to 10.0 keV energy range.
The Chandra X-ray Observatory (formerly the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility, or AXAF) was built around a high-resolution grazing incidence X-ray telescope which will make astrophysical observations in the 0.09 to 10.0 keV energy range.

Space scientists believe clues suggest turbulence within Perseus and Virgo could be a cause of the lack of stars seen during our journey. Turbulence which could be preventing hot gas within these behemoths from cooling and ultimately forming more stars.

The hot gasses within Perseus and Virgo are believed to be one of the heaviest components of these galaxy clusters. Over a long period of time, the hot gasses near the centers of these galaxy clusters should cool to the point where stars form at an amazing rate, according to the latest theories.  But this picture isn’t the one NASA astronomers are seeing during our journey, though, and this has them wondering and searching for answers.

“We knew that somehow the gas in clusters is being heated to prevent it cooling and forming stars. The question was exactly how,” said Irina Zhuravleva of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who led the study that appears in the latest online issue of the journal Nature. “We think we may have found evidence that the heat is channeled from turbulent motions, which we identify from signatures recorded in X-ray images.”

What’s causing turbulence within Perseus and Virgo?

Space scientists have previously recorded data indicating supermassive black holes, believed to be located near the center of large galaxies in the middle of galaxy clusters, jet huge quantities of energetic particles into the surrounding hot gas.

Powerful jets that space scientists believe create giant cavities in the hot gas and transfer energy that generates turbulence, which then disperses keeping the gas hot for billions of years.

“Any gas motions from the turbulence will eventually decay, releasing their energy to the gas,” said co-author Eugene Churazov of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Munich, Germany. “But the gas won’t cool if turbulence is strong enough and generated often enough.”

What is next for space scientists?

Space scientists newest data indicates this scenario appears to have unfolded within the Perseus and Virgo galaxy clusters.

“Our work gives us an estimate of how much turbulence is generated in these clusters,” said Alexander Schekochihin of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. “From what we’ve determined so far, there’s enough turbulence to balance the cooling of the gas.

Some space scientists involved in the study think there could be other forces at work creating turbulence, interactions between galaxies within galaxy clusters could also be a major factor.

Evidence appears to support a “feedback” model involving black holes near the center of galaxies within the Perseus and Virgo galaxy clusters.

Space scientists need to collect more data on each galaxy cluster to estimate the turbulence in the hot gas better. This will give them a better picture of what’s really going on and why galaxy clusters don’t form large numbers of stars?

You can view an interactive image, podcast, and video with more information concerning this research here.

You can find more information on the Chandra X-Ray Space Telescope here.

For more information on NASA’s Chandra space mission visit here.

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