Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2003 September 12
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

A Note on the Perseus Cluster
Credit: A. Fabian (IoA Cambridge) et al., CXC, NASA

Explanation: A truly enormous collection of thousands of galaxies, the Perseus Cluster - like other large galaxy clusters - is filled with hot, x-ray emitting gas. The x-ray hot gas (not the individual galaxies) appears in the left panel above, a false color image from the Chandra Observatory. The bright central source flanked by two dark cavities is the cluster's supermassive black hole. At right, the panel shows the x-ray image data specially processed to enhance contrasts and reveals a strikingly regular pattern of pressure waves rippling through the hot gas. In other words, sound waves, likely generated by bursts of activity from the black hole, are ringing through the Perseus Galaxy Cluster. Astronomers infer that these previously unknown sound waves are a source of energy which keeps the cluster gas so hot. So what note is the Perseus Cluster playing? Estimates of the distance between the wave peaks and sound speed in the cluster gas suggests the cosmic note is about 57 octaves below B-flat above middle C.

Tomorrow's picture: eight to the bar

< | Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | Glossary | Education | About APOD | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Web Site Statements, Warnings, and Disclaimers
NASA Official: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.