Gemini: Cannibalistic Galaxy Reveals Its Monstrous Appetite

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Gemini: Cannibalistic Galaxy Reveals Its Monstrous Appetite

Post by bystander » Wed May 12, 2010 3:17 pm

Cannibalistic Galaxy Bends Light & Reveals Its Monstrous Appetite
Gemini Observatory - 12 May 2010
A newly discovered gravitational lens in a relatively nearby galaxy cluster is leading astronomers to conclude that the cluster hosts the most massive galaxy known in our local universe. The study also reaffirms that galactic cannibalism is one reason that this galaxy is so obese, tipping the scales at up to 30 trillion times the mass of our Sun.

The supermassive galaxy is located at the core of the galaxy cluster Abell 3827, which lies some 1.4 billion light-years away. This galaxy and hundreds of its smaller cluster companions are visible in a dramatic new image released by the Gemini Observatory. The image is part of an upcoming paper in The Astrophysical Journal Letters that reports on the study of the massive galaxy using the gravitational lens formed by its core (also visible in the image) to provide new measurements of the galaxy’s extreme mass. ...

The exceptional galaxy was not simply born massive; it has grown by consuming its companions in perhaps the most extreme example of ongoing “galaxy cannibalism” known. “This unabashed cannibal is something of a messy eater, with the partially digested remains of at least four smaller galaxies still visible near its center,” said team member Michael West, astronomer at the European Southern Observatory who first observed this system more than a decade ago and says that he was immediately struck by the complex morphology of this giant cannibal galaxy (see West’s APOD August 31, 1998). “Eventually this galaxy will grow even bigger judging by the number of nearby galaxies already within its gravitational grasp.” ...
Strong Gravitational Lensing by the Super-massive cD Galaxy in Abell 3827 ~ E. R. Carrasco et al