The Phoenix cluster that churns out 740 new stars every year. Credit: MIT/ Nasa
Astronomers have discovered a new galaxy cluster that churns out about 740 stars every year, the highest rate ever observed in a galaxy.
The unique cluster, officially known as as SPT-CLJ2344-4243 or the Phoenix cluster, is located in the Phoenix constellation, 5.7 billion light years from earth.
Phoenix holds a vast reservoir of hot gas which itself contains more normal matter than all of the galaxies in the cluster combined.
"While galaxies at the centre of most clusters may have been dormant for billions of years, the central galaxy in this cluster seems to have come back to life with a new burst of star formation," said Michael McDonald, scientist at the MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and the lead author of the paper on Phoenix.
The discovery was made while analysing data obtained from 10 telescopes around the world, including Nasa's Chandra X-ray telescope.
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Scientists believe that the outburst of star formation in Phoenix cluster is occurring due to interruption in the natural cooling process. They claim a black hole at the centre of the cluster could be emiting jets of particles that are reheating the core, preventing it from cooling completely, thereby allowing it to generate more stars.
"What's interesting about the Phoenix cluster is that we see almost all the cooling that was predicted. It could be that this is earlier in the evolution where there's nothing stopping it, so it cools and becomes a starburst ... in fact, there are few things forming stars in the universe faster than this galaxy," McDonald said.
The frenetic pace of star birth and cooling of gas in Phoenix are causing both the galaxy and the black hole to add mass very quickly - an important phase that the researchers predict will be relatively short-lived, according to a Eurekalert report.
"The galaxy and its black hole are undergoing unsustainable growth," said Bradford Benson, a Kavli Institute Fellow at University of Chicago.
"This growth spurt can't last longer than about a hundred million years, otherwise the galaxy and black hole would become much bigger than their counterparts in the nearby universe."