Saturday, October 27, 2012

Galaxy Cluster Abell 2261

Galaxy Cluster Abell 2261
Click on the image for full resolution (2.0 MB)

The giant elliptical galaxy in the centre of this image, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is the most massive and brightest member of the galaxy cluster Abell 2261. Spanning a little over one million light-years, the galaxy is about 20 times the diameter of our Milky Way galaxy. The bloated galaxy is a member of an unusual class of galaxies with a diffuse core filled with a fog of starlight. Normally, astronomers would expect to see a concentrated peak of light around a central black hole. The Hubble observations revealed that the galaxy's puffy core, measuring about 10 000 light-years, is the largest yet seen. The observations present a mystery, and studies of this galaxy may provide insight into how black hole behavior may shape the cores of galaxies. Astronomers used Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3 to measure the amount of starlight across the galaxy, catalogued as 2MASX J17222717+3207571 but more commonly called A2261-BCG (short for Abell 2261 brightest cluster galaxy). Abell 2261 is located three billion light-years away. The observations were taken between March and May 2011. The Abell 2261 cluster is part of a multi-wavelength survey called the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH).
The full resolution image weighs 2.0 MB, so please be (a little) patient when downloading!
Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Postman (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), T. Lauer (National Optical Astronomy Observatory, USA), and the CLASH team.
Image enhancement: Jean-Baptiste Faure

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