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Image credit: Hitomi Collaboration/JAXA, NASA, ESA, SRON, CSA

Hitomi observed the Perseus galaxy cluster before it died

Scientists used the info to figure out why it doesn't have as many stars as they thought.
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Hitomi Collaboration/JAXA, NASA, ESA, SRON, CSA

Japan's most powerful x-ray satellite Hitomi got lost in space shortly after it launched, but it managed to beam back data that can help us better understand galaxy clusters. The space telescope got a chance to peer into a cluster of galaxies and its supermassive black hole in the Perseus constellation using the Goddard-built Soft X-Ray Spectrometer. Thanks to the data it sent back, astronomers found that the massive cluster's center has a "remarkably quiescent atmosphere" with fewer stars than they thought it would have.

Since Hitomi measured the motion of gases in the cluster's core, the astronomers also figured out the reason why stars aren't abundant in that area. Apparently, the supermassive black hole keeps stirring those gases, preventing them from cooling down enough to form new stars. The astronomers wrote about their findings in Nature, and they expect to be able to share more in the future. Unfortunately, Japan's space agency gave up trying to rescue the telescope way back in April. Once the scientists have exhausted what little data it collected, we'll have to say goodbye to Hitomi for good.

Source: Yale, Stanford, Nature
Coverage: Gizmodo
In this article: hitomi, jaxa, science, space, x-ray
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