What in the Universe: Centaurus Galaxy Cluster

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What is creating cavities in this gas cloud?

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning partners: Caltech/IPAC, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and Sonoma State University.

  • X-ray image of  NGC 4696/Centaurus Galaxy Cluster:  NASA/CXC/MPE/J.Sanders et al
  • Radio image of  NGC 4696/Centaurus Galaxy Cluster:  NSF/NRAO/VLA
  • Composite image of  NGC 4696/Centaurus Galaxy Cluster:  Above, plus Visible light: NASA/STScI
  • Red X-ray image of  NGC 4696/Centaurus Galaxy Cluster:  NASA/CXC/MPE/J.Sanders et al

Written by Leah Ramsay 
Designed by Leah Hustak and Dani Player 
Subject matter expertise from Dr. Quyen Hart 
Editorial and design input from Margaret Carruthers and Timothy Rhue II 
Music courtesy of Music for Non-Profits

Red square against starry sky. Icons, star, galaxy, constellation, asteroid, solar system. Text, what in the universe.
What is carving cavities within this cloud of hot gas?
A., Stellar Wind, B. Forming planets, C. Multiple Supernovas, D. Particle jets powered by a black hole.
Dotted lines around cavities.
Letter D is highlighted in grey.
Text, Beating heart of the Centaurus galaxy cluster. Centaurus constellation.
Hot gas fills the spaces between galaxies in the Centaurus galaxy cluster, emitting x rays seen by NASA's Chandra X Ray Observatory.
Cavities in the X ray emitting gas cloud match up with radio emissions detected by the ground based Jansky Very Large Array.
The radio waves come from high energy particle jets powered by the black hole. The jets appear to occur intermittently every 5 to 10 million years, dispersing element rich gas out into the cluster like a very slowly beating heart.
The cavities that formed the most recently are located nearest to the black hole. The high energy heartbeats also keep the hot gas from cooling enough to form large numbers of stars.
Studying the Centaurus cluster in multiple wavelengths reveals a dynamic environment with a cosmic heartbeat at its center.
Zooms in on the Centaurus cluster.