This Distant Galaxy Cluster is Totally Relaxed, Unharassed for a Billion Years

Astronomers have discovered a galaxy cluster with an important characteristic; it's “relaxed, meaning that it shows no signs of having been disrupted by violent collisions with other clusters of galaxies. This composite image contains X-rays from Chandra (blue), which helped identify SPT2215 along with other telescopes, and data from Hubble (cyan and orange). Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/M. Calzadilla; UV/Optical/Near-IR/IR: NASA/STScI/HST; Image processing: N. Wolk

In the span of a human lifetime, much of the Universe seems unchanging. But that’s an illusion; things are always changing, and that fact can make galaxies and the clusters they reside in very unruly places due to mergers and collisions.

However, some galaxy clusters seem much calmer than others.

Continue reading “This Distant Galaxy Cluster is Totally Relaxed, Unharassed for a Billion Years”

The Donut That Used To Be a Star

This sequence of artist's illustrations shows how a black hole can devour a bypassing star. 1) A normal star passes near a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy. 2) The star's outer gasses are pulled into the black hole's gravitational field. 3) The star is shredded as tidal forces pull it apart. 4) The stellar remnants are pulled into a donut-shaped ring around the black hole, and will eventually fall into the black hole, unleashing a tremendous amount of light and high-energy radiation. Credit: NASA, ESA, Leah Hustak (STScI)

The death of a star is one of the most dramatic natural events in the Universe. Some stars die in dramatic supernova explosions, leaving nebulae behind as shimmering remnants of their former splendour. Some simply wither away as their hydrogen runs out, billowing into a red giant as they do so.

But others are consumed by behemoth black holes, and as they’re destroyed, the black hole’s powerful gravity tears the star apart and draws its gas into a donut-shaped ring around the black hole.

Continue reading “The Donut That Used To Be a Star”