Perseus Cluster Mystery Persists --"What We Found Could Not be Explained by Known Physics"
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July 29, 2014

Perseus Cluster Mystery Persists --"What We Found Could Not be Explained by Known Physics"

 

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The Universe is a big place, full of unknowns. Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have just catalogued a new one."I couldn't believe my eyes," says Esra Bulbul of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics. "What we found, at first glance, could not be explained by known physics." Together with a team of more than a half-dozen colleagues, Bulbul has been using Chandra to explore the Perseus Cluster, a swarm of galaxies approximately 250 million light years from Earth. Imagine a cloud of gas in which each atom is a whole galaxy—that's a bit what the Perseus cluster is like. It is one of the most massive known objects in the Universe. The cluster itself is immersed in an enormous 'atmosphere' of superheated plasma—and it is there that the mystery resides.

"The cluster's atmosphere is full of ions such as Fe XXV, Si XIV, and S XV. Each one produces a 'bump' or 'line' in the x-ray spectrum, which we can map using Chandra," Bulbul explains. "These spectral lines are at well-known x-ray energies." Yet, in 2012 when Bulbul added together 17 day's worth of Chandra data, a new line popped up where no line should be. "A line appeared at 3.56 keV (kilo-electron volts) which does not correspond to any known atomic transition," she says. "It was a great surprise."

At first, Bulbul herself did not believe it. "It took a long time to convince myself that this line is neither a detector artifact, nor a known atomic line," she says. "I have done very careful checks. I have re-analyzed the data; split the data set into different sub groups; and checked the data from four other detectors on board two different observatories. None of these efforts made the line disappear."

In short, it appears to be real. The reality of the line was further confirmed when Bulbul's team found the same spectral signature in X-ray emissions from 73 other galaxy clusters. Those data were gathered by Europe's XMM-Newton, a completely independent X-ray telescope.

 

         

 

Moreover, about a week after Bulbul team posted their paper online, a different group led by Alexey Boyarsky of Leiden University in the Netherlands reported evidence for the same spectral line in XMM-Newton observations of the Andromeda galaxy. They also confirmed the line in the outskirts of the Perseus cluster.

The spectral line appears not to come from any known type of matter, which shifts suspicion to the unknown: dark matter.

"After we submitted the paper, theoreticians came up with about 60 different dark matter types which could explain this line. Some particle physicists have jokingly called this particle a 'bulbulon'," she laughs.

The menagerie of dark matter candidates that might produce this kind of line include axions, sterile neutrinos, and "moduli dark matter" that may result from the curling up of extra dimensions in string theory.

Solving the mystery could require a whole new observatory. In 2015, the Japanese space agency is planning to launch an advanced X-ray telescope called "Astro-H." It has a new type of X-ray detector, developed collaboratively by NASA and University of Wisconsin scientists, which will be able to measure the mystery line with more precision than currently possible.

"Maybe then," says Bulbul, "we'll get to the bottom of this."

A 53-hour Chandra observation shown below of the central region of the galaxy cluster has revealed wavelike features that appear to be sound waves. The features were discovered by using a special image-processing technique to bring out subtle changes in brightness.

 

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These sound waves are thought to have been produced by explosive events occurring around a supermassive black hole (bright white spot) in Perseus A, the huge galaxy at the center of the cluster. The pitch of the sound waves translates into the note of B flat, 57 octaves below middle-C. This frequency is over a million billion times deeper than the limits of human hearing, so the sound is much too deep to be heard.

The image also shows two vast, bubble-shaped cavities, each about 50 thousand light years wide, extending away from the central supermassive black hole. These cavities, which are bright sources of radio waves, are not really empty, but filled with high-energy particles and magnetic fields. They push the hot X-ray emitting gas aside, creating sound waves that sweep across hundreds of thousands of light years.

The detection of intergalactic sound waves may solve the long-standing mystery of why the hot gas in the central regions of the Perseus cluster has not cooled over the past ten billion years to form trillions of stars. As sounds waves move through gas, they are eventually absorbed and their energy is converted to heat. In this way, the sound waves from the supermassive black hole in Perseus A could keep the cluster gas hot.

The explosive activity occurring around the supermassive black hole is probably caused by large amounts of gas falling into it, perhaps from smaller galaxies that are being cannibalized by Perseus A. The dark blobs in the central region of the Chandra image may be fragments of such a doomed galaxy.

The haunting Chandra Observatory image at the top of the page reveals the Perseus Cluster of Galaxies in x-rays, photons with a thousand or more times the energy of visible light. Three hundred twenty million light-years distant, the Perseus Cluster is more than a 100,000 light years across and contains thousands of galaxies, but none of them are seen here. Instead of mere galaxies, a fifty million degree cloud of intracluster gas, itself more massive than all the cluster's galaxies combined, dominates the x-ray view. From this angle, voids and bright knots in the x-ray hot gas cloud lend it a very suggestive appearance.

Like eyes in a skull, two dark bubbles flank a bright central source of x-ray emission. A third elongated bubble (at about 5 o'clock) forms a toothless mouth. The bright x-ray source is likely a supermassive black hole at the cluster center with the bubbles blown by explosions of energetic particles ejected from the black hole and expanding into the immense gas cloud. Fittingly, the dark spot forming the skull's "nose" is an x-ray shadow ... the shadow of a large galaxy inexorably falling into the cluster center.

The Daily Galaxy via Dr. Tony Phillips/Science@NASA and Chandra Space Observatory

Image credit: APOD/NASA

Comments

Could it be another mini universe in our plane of existing matter? I thought it was believed a singularity has 2 points entry and exit, and we have them around our whole universe. Could it be another big bang or little bang? Is the cloud expanding? Is that cluster of matter expanding away from each other differently then surrounding matter? If so could it be another universe that will overlap and merge with ours as it expands? A process that just puts matter back into our galaxy like white holes have been theorized to do.

I forgot to add that I thought of black holes being the matter collectors for the universe and the opposite end is just a giant pool/blob/gas cluster/whatever matter is broken down into after a black hole experience. At that end of the black hole it would be a plane of existence between worlds that collects this matter, until one day enough matter is stored in this plane between universes compressing it, and a white hole blooms. Releasing the other end of a singularity into our plane while releasing the densely compressed matter into our existence from the center of its own universe. A Simple regular cycle of recycling matter in a theorized 10 dimensional universe. Maybe its ground Zero.

This is the first definitive example of reverse repulsive gravity in action.Einstein stetd if conditions are right this is what would happen.what this is showing also is what happens when you get a change of magnetic polarity.we may well be looking at an event horizon inside out.

Becher and Rutherford vindicated!! Phlogiston's existence is proven!

or dark matter, or ethereal vapors, or something we'll figure out later (or not)


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