Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/BU/E.Blanton; Optical: ESO/VLT

Meet Abell 2052: a distant galaxy cluster surrounded by an illustrious blue cloud of gas. It can be found approximately 480 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Serpens.

Abell 2052's most prolific feature is the illustrious blue cloud that appears to swoop around its rim. It can only be described as blisteringly hot, reaching temperatures in excess of 30 million degrees. This data is conveyed by the cluster's x-ray signature, captured using the keen eye of Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Optical light, seen in brownish-gold, was acquired by the Very Large Telescope

The gargantuan blue formation, which spans nearly a million light-years across, is powered by the huge elliptical galaxy pictured in the center of this image. Perhaps it would be more precise to say that the structure materialized as a result of gravitational forces, the kind that see small galaxies gobbled up by much larger ones. This phenomenon is well-known, and astronomers believe it drives the formation of all elliptical galaxies.

With this cluster, when a neighboring cluster encountered Abell 2052, it traversed the core with ease, only to swing back around when the direction in which the gas travelled reversed. Per NASA, as the cycle continued, "The cluster gas moved through the center again and "sloshed" back and forth, similar to wine sloshing in a glass that was jerked sideways. The sides of the glass push the wine back to the center, whereas in the cluster the gravitational force of the matter in the clusters pulls it back. The sloshing gas ended up in a spiral pattern because the collision between the two clusters was off-center." They continue:

See a larger image here.

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