Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Giant ball of fire hurtling through space

By Aussiegirl

Goodness, gracious! Great balls of fire! Wow -- you are going to need SPF 10 trillion for this baby if you ever get too close! This monster is billions of light years across in size! This takes me back to 6th grade when I remember first learning about the concept of a light year. I remember the very idea blew me away and just set my mind on fire. It was the first really scientific and mind-boggling concept I remember learning about. (Here is the explanation of the startling illustration I used -- this isn't to be confused with a Jackson Pollock painting!): This X-ray image shows what astronomers say is a comet-like blob of gas about 5 million light-years long hurling through a distant galaxy cluster. The orange-red region represents the "comet." The head is at the lower left. The tail fans outward because there is less pressure to confine it. The red refers to regions of lower "entropy," a measure of disorder. The orange regions have higher entropy.)

Giant 'ball of fire' hurtling through space

Astronomers say they have found a comet-like 'ball of fire', over a billion times weightier than our Sun, plowing into a distant galaxy cluster.

By far the largest object of its kind ever identified, scientists say, it's estimated to be moving at over 2.7 million kilometres (1.7 million miles) per hour.
The size and velocity of this gas ball is truly fantastic, said Alexis Finoguenov of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in Baltimore, Md., and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, one of the researchers.

The gas ball doesn't emit visible light, though it contains visible galaxies and spews X-rays, a high-energy form of light, he added.

The fireball is estimated to be about three million light years long, more than two billion times the width of our solar system. A light year is the distance light travels in a year.

The object is in a cluster of galaxies called Abell 3266, millions of light years from Earth, thus posing no danger to us, the researchers said. The cluster, one of the most massive such agglomerations in the southern sky, contains hundreds of galaxies and hot gas. [....]

“This is likely a massive building block being delivered to one of the largest assemblies of galaxies we know,” said Finoguenov.

The object appears from Earth as a circular glow of X-ray light with a comet-like tail nearly half the size of the moon, the astronomers said.

The gas ball is 46 million degrees C (83 million degrees F), Finoguenov added; the surrounding gas is even hotter, but emits fewer X-rays because it is sparser.

“What interests astronomers is not just the size of the gas ball but the role it plays in the formation and evolution of structure in the universe,” said Francesco Miniati of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, another of the scientists. [....]

With the fireball, “We are seeing structure formation in action,” said Henriksen. The cluster’s hot gas is “stripping off and dispersing gas that perhaps one day will seed star and galaxy growth within the cluster.”


At 6:31 PM, Blogger Gormless Norman said...

The fireball is estimated to be about three million light years long, more than two billion times the width of our solar system"

"The gas ball is 46 million degrees C (83 million degrees F)"

A fireball this big and hot is a clear and present danger, and a threat to democracy itself. It is a clear example of why our first responders need to be adequately funded. If this fireball were to land in a U.S. city, there would be dozens of casualties.


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