Astronomers Track Two Galaxy Clusters On The Brink Of Merging Into One Giant Galaxy Merger

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This is the first time that space scientists observed two giant galaxy clusters that are on the brink of crashing into each other. This event is essential to witness as it is a step forward in our understanding of the evolution of the universe; scientists always suspected that galaxies and clusters of galaxies form by collision with other galaxies and this is probably the confirmation they needed.

A cluster of galaxies is a formation that could be comprised of thousands of galaxies held together by gravity, each galaxy enclosing billions of stars. Bigger than clusters are the superclusters that consist of a multitude of galaxy clusters.

Because of their dimensions, which is measured in millions of light years, a collision between two galaxy clusters takes up to one billion years to come to an end. Until now, astronomers have seen different stages of these collisions, but never the very first moments of the contact. It is an essential phase as it happens over a short period, which makes it challenging to observe and study.

Astronomers Track Two Galaxy Clusters On The Brink Of Merging Into One Giant Galactic Merger

Dr. Huib Intema, a senior researcher at Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy in Australia (CIRA), declares that ‘this observation provides the first clear view on what happens just before two large clusters merge, and allows us to study how the potential energy released in the merger is affecting and shaping the newly-to-be-formed larger cluster’.

Researchers made computer simulations that tried to reproduce the first few moments of the collision. It is believed that a massive shockwave of gas will be discharged that could reach 100-million-degrees temperature.

The shock will produce a hot belt zone of incandescent gas between the two clusters of galaxies that will eventually expand beyond the extremities of the clusters. Space scientists intend to make ‘snapshots’ of the impact to produce a model of the process of cluster collision.