Galaxy clusters, containing hundreds or even thousands of individual galaxies embedded in vast clouds of hot gas and dark matter, are the largest gravitationally-bound structures in the universe. They can grow to truly enormous size by pulling in surrounding material – including other galaxies – with their collective gravity.
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has provided a detailed look at a handful of galaxies doing just that, falling directly into the Abell 2142 galaxy cluster, leaving a million-light-year-long trail of million-degree hot gas in its wake.
In the abstract of a paper describing new observations, the in-falling galaxies are described as “the poster child of such an accreting group” and “an ideal target to study the astrophysical processes induced by structure formation.”
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