Astronomers record galactic clusters merging at a distance of 780 million light years

February 3, 2023  15:24

At least three galactic clusters are undergoing a chaotic merger at a distance of about 780 million light-years from Earth. Using data from various telescopes, astronomers have published a spectacular photo of a massive collision of galactic clusters.

According to, smaller clusters of galaxies, each containing hundreds or thousands of individual galaxies, are merging to form a larger cluster of galaxies known as Abel 2256.

To understand what happens inside this merger, astronomers gathered data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton telescope, both space telescopes, and the Pan-STARRS telescope at the Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii, the Giant Metwave radio telescope in India, the Low Frequency Telescope in the Netherlands array and the Very Large Array Observatory in New Mexico.

The result was a composite image showing several wavelengths. X-rays are shown in blue, radio waves in red, and optical and infrared rays in yellow. 

Abell 2256.JPG (152 KB)

X-rays show clouds of hot gas, and radio waves show jets of energy emanating from black holes at the centers of galaxies throughout the cluster, as well as relicts or filament structures that represent ancient shock waves from colliding clusters. Optical and infrared dots show individual galaxies in Abel 2256.

X Ray .JPG (26 KB)

X-ray version

Optical infrared.JPG (40 KB)

Optical and infrared version

Radio.JPG (33 KB)

Radio version

Astronomer Kamlesh Rajpurohit of the University of Bologna in Italy, who leads the group studying Abel 2256, hopes to use these images to unravel the mystery of how these massive clusters of galaxies, some of the largest structures in the universe, form.

Their study is also interesting because galaxy clusters are the largest known particle accelerator in the universe, which, according to some theories, are the source of mysterious cosmic rays. With such detailed images, astronomers can continue to study the origin of these mysterious bursts of energy traveling at near-light speed.

Rajpurohit and colleagues published two papers analyzing Abell 2256, the first in The Astrophysical Journal in 2022. in March and the second in Astronomy and Astrophysics in 2023. in January.

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