'Conjoined' galaxies linked by cosmic gas

Nov. 20, 2012 at 3:18 PM
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PARIS, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- A bridge of hot gas connecting a pair of galaxy clusters across 10 million light-years of intergalactic space has been detected, European astronomers say.

In the early universe, filaments of gaseous matter pervaded the cosmos in a giant web and, while much of this tenuous filamentary gas remains undetected, astronomers had theorized it could most likely be found between interacting galaxy clusters.

The European Space Agency's Planck space telescope has detected just such a bridge of hot gas connecting the clusters Abell 399 and Abell 401, each containing hundreds of galaxies, ESA reported from its Paris headquarters Tuesday.

Observational data shows the temperature of the gas in the bridge is similar to the temperature of the gas in the two clusters, on the order of 176 million degrees Fahrenheit.

Astronomers say the gas could be mixture of the elusive filaments of the original cosmic web mixed with gas coming from the galactic clusters.

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