Astronomers have found evidence for a faded electron cloud “coming back to life,” much like the mythical phoenix, after two galaxy clusters collided. This “radio phoenix,” so-called because the high-energy electrons radiate primarily at radio frequencies, is found in Abell 1033. A galaxy cluster consists of hundreds or even thousands of individual galaxies, unseen dark matter, and huge reservoirs of hot gas that glow in X-ray light. This system is located about 1.6 billion light years from Earth.
Astronomers think that the supermassive black hole close to the center of Abell 1033 erupted in the past. Streams of high-energy electrons filled a region hundreds of thousands of light years across and produced a cloud of bright radio emission. This cloud faded over a period of millions of years as the electrons lost energy and the cloud expanded.
This new portrait of the radio phoenix is captured in this multiwavelength image of Abell 1033. X-rays from Chandra are in pink and radio data from the VLA are colored green. The background image shows optical observations from the SDSS.
Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Hamburg/F. de Gasperin et al; Optical: SDSS; Radio: NRAO/VLA
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