Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hitomi satellite, launched in February, lasted but five weeks before breaking apart. But prior to its demise, it managed to peer into the Perseus cluster, an assemblage of thousands of galaxies bound together by gravity and containing a vast amount of extremely hot gas averaging around 50 million °C.
Instead of a turbulent whirl, the Soft X-Ray Spectrometer on the craft saw the gas was relatively still: moving only around 590,000 kilometres per hour. While it sounds incredibly fast for us on Earth, it’s surprisingly modest on cosmological scales.
Prior to Hitomi’s launch, astronomers were unable to measure the gas’ detailed dynamics – particularly its relationship to bubbles of gas expelled by an active supermassive black hole in the cluster’s core galaxy, NGC 1275.
“Although this gas is continually stirred by fast outflows from the central black hole, its velocities are small on astronomical scales and show evidence for only minor levels of turbulence,” says Richard Kelley, the US principal investigator for the Hitomi collaboration.
The work was published in Nature. You can learn more about the mission and observations in the video below.
Originally published by Cosmos as Satellite’s swan song: ‘serenity’ in Perseus cluster gas
Curated content from the editorial staff at Cosmos Magazine.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.