ALMA captures high-resolution image of ‘cosmic hole’

ALMA observations revealed a cosmic hole -- radio distortion in the cosmic microwave background, as seen in blue -- surrounding a galactic cluster 4.8 billion light-years from Earth. Photo by ALMA/ESO/NAOJ/NRAO

March 18 (UPI) — The Atacama Large Millimeter Array captured an image of a “cosmic hole.” It is the highest resolution image of a cosmic hole.

A cosmic hole, or radio hole, is a phenomenon created by the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect, or SZ effect, which describes the scattering of cosmic microwave background radiation waves by a galactic cluster.

Astronomers used ALMA to observe a hole surrounding the galaxy cluster RX J1347.5-1145, situated 4.8 billion light-years from Earth.

The latest observations helped scientists explain distortions and discrepancies in the rendering of hot gas distribution by previous radio and X-ray observations.

“The new ALMA observation not only confirms the previous observations, but also provides an image with the highest resolution and highest sensitivity, which will open up a new era of SZ science,” Eiichiro Komatsu, director at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, said in a news release. “The mismatch between radio and X-ray observations leads us to the conclusion that this cluster is undergoing a violent merger, and we think that there is a clump of gas which is incredibly hot.”

The wide angle lens of ALMA’s Morita Array allowed astronomers to field radio waves across a large portion of the sky, yielding an image of the SZ effect with double the resolution and 10 times the sensitivity.

Researchers described their feat in the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan.


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