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One of the Most Energetic Events Ever Seen in the Universe

X-ray image of 3C438. Image credit: ChandraA new photograph taken by NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory reveals one of the most energetic events ever seen in the Universe. According to astronomers, two huge galaxy clusters are currently undergoing a collision at a speed of 6.5 million km/h (4 million mph), releasing a tremendous amount of energy as their clouds of hot gas slam together. Or maybe it’s a supermassive black hole consuming an incomprehensible amount of material.

In Chandra’s vision, the gas heated to a temperature of 170 million degrees Celsius, glows brightly in the X-ray spectrum as bright arc, extending over two million light-years. If this was galaxy clusters coming together, the arc is a shock front between them, were the clouds of hot gas are colliding.

Another theory, however, is that the disturbance is an outburst coming from a supermassive black hole that recently received a large infall of matter. The black hole can only consume so much before it starts to choke. The excess material is expelled outward into a pair of high-speed jets which can also glow brightly in the X-ray spectrum.

The black hole theory holds true, it would have to be consuming an implausible amount of mass; about 30 billion times the mass of the Sun over a period of 200 million years.

“These values have never been seen before and, truthfully, are hard to believe,” said Ralph Kraft of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

Original Source: Chandra News Release

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Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.

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