ESA's Planck Space Telescope Spots Hot Gas Bridge Connecting Galaxy Clusters

Posted on November 21, 2012

Astronomers using ESA's Planck space telescope have made the first conclusive detection of a bridge of hot gas connecting a pair of galaxy cluster. The hot gas bridge connects the Abell 399 and Abell 401 clusters across 10 million light-years of intergalactic space.

Jan Tauber, Planck project scientist at ESA, said in a release, "This discovery highlights the ability of Planck to probe galaxy clusters out to their outskirts and even beyond, allowing us to investigate the connection between intra-cluster gas and gas that is part of the cosmic web."

Jose M. Diego, a Planck Collaboration scientist from the Instituto de Fisica de Cantabria (UC-CSIC) in Santander, Spain, says, "Planck can detect galaxy clusters across the sky because the hot gas that fills them imprints a characteristic signature on the Cosmic Microwave Background known as the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect. Based on the same principle, Planck could be sensitive to gas from the WHIM, too."

The WHIM stands for warm-hot intergalactic medium. The ESA scientists say the WHIM is the "baryonic component of the cosmic web, a filamentary network of both dark and baryonic matter that is believed to pervade the Universe."

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