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Starts With A Bang

Mostly Mute Monday: A beautiful bridge between a lovely lens

When two giant ellipticals get together, the astronomical chaos is beautiful.

“Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.” –Yousuf Karsh

Image credit: NASA, ESA, G. Tremblay (ESO), M. Gladders and M. Florian (University of Chicago), S. Baum, C. O’Dea, K. Cooke (RIT), M. Bayliss (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), H. Dahle (University of Oslo), T. Davis (ESO), J. Rigby (NASA/GSFC), K. Sharon (University of Michigan), E. Soto (Catholic University of America), and E. Wuyts (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics); Acknowledgment: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration.
Image credit: NASA, ESA, G. Tremblay (ESO), M. Gladders and M. Florian (University of Chicago), S. Baum, C. O’Dea, K. Cooke (RIT), M. Bayliss (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), H. Dahle (University of Oslo), T. Davis (ESO), J. Rigby (NASA/GSFC), K. Sharon (University of Michigan), E. Soto (Catholic University of America), and E. Wuyts (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics); Acknowledgment: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration.
Image credit: NASA, ESA, G. Tremblay (ESO), M. Gladders and M. Florian (University of Chicago), S. Baum, C. O’Dea, K. Cooke (RIT), M. Bayliss (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), H. Dahle (University of Oslo), T. Davis (ESO), J. Rigby (NASA/GSFC), K. Sharon (University of Michigan), E. Soto (Catholic University of America), and E. Wuyts (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics); Acknowledgment: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration.
Image credit: Grant R. Tremblay et al., 2014, via http://arxiv.org/abs/1407.2251, along with ESA/Hubble and NASA.
Image credit: Grant R. Tremblay et al., 2014, via http://arxiv.org/abs/1407.2251, along with ESA/Hubble and NASA.

The very dense galaxy cluster SDSS J1531+3414 was discovered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and imaged in great detail by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2013. One of the most massive, dense concentrations of matter in the sky, this galaxy cluster creates the appearance of massive arcs and circles around it and radially outward from its center, as the incredible mass warps the light from background objects thanks to the phenomenon of gravitational lensing. Many distorted galaxies in the image are actually the same object, appearing as a consequence of the particulars of General Relativity.

At the center, the two merging giant ellipticals create a string of superclusters of new, hot, blue stars, a phenomenon that will only live for a few million years at maximum, the largest such structure ever observed. Nearly the size of our Milky Way galaxy at 30 kpc, these star clusters separate into individual “beads” from the same process that causes falling water to separate into raindrops: the Jeans instability. Over the next few million years, tens of thousands of supernovae are likely to occur in these giant ellipticals, as the most massive stars run out of fuel and spectacularly end their lives.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, G. Tremblay (ESO), M. Gladders and M. Florian (University of Chicago), S. Baum, C. O’Dea, K. Cooke (RIT), M. Bayliss (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), H. Dahle (University of Oslo), T. Davis (ESO), J. Rigby (NASA/GSFC), K. Sharon (University of Michigan), E. Soto (Catholic University of America), and E. Wuyts (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics); Acknowledgment: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration.

Mostly Mute Monday highlights a single astronomical achievement in pictures and/or video, with a maximum of 200 words explaining it. If you like this story and the series, consider recommending and sharing it.

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