The Absolute Cosmos: Gigantic collisions of galaxy clusters in young universe detected

Scientists have detected gigantic collisions of galaxy clusters from the young universe. The collisions occurred seven billion years ago and were only observed as they accelerate particles at very high speeds.

An international team of scientists headed by Leiden University (Netherlands or Holland informally) has mapped nine gigantic collisions of galaxy clusters.

Clusters of galaxies are the largest known structures in the observable universe. These Clusters can comprise of thousands of galaxies, with each galaxy packed with billions of stars.

The merger of such galaxy clusters accelerate the electrons between them to almost the speed of light. When these high velocity electrons/particles come in contact with magnetic fields in the clusters, they emit radio waves.

Up until now, scientists were not able to receive radio waves from distant colliding clusters as the telescopes were not powerful enough.

But now using Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR), by focusing for eight hours on each cluster, scientists have managed to gather detailed data from distant galaxy clusters for the first time.

LOFAR is a large radio telescope network primarily located in Netherlands. The telescope is managed by ASTRON (the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy) and its international partners.

The data gathered by LOFAR shows that radio emission from the distant merging clusters is brighter than previously thought.

As per current theories, radio waves in the merging clusters originate from the electrons which are accelerated due to violent motions. The new findings hint that this may also be the case in young universe.

Also, the magnetic fields in the distant clusters are as strong as in the nearby previously investigated clusters. This was surprising as scientists do not know how these magnetic fields can be so strong in such a young universe.

Further, the researchers hope that future observations of these distant clusters will help in collecting more information.

For more information: Fast magnetic field amplification in distant galaxy clusters, Nature Astronomy (2020)

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