Son of M81
Recent X-ray images from a giant galaxy cluster
confirm the expectations of electrical theorists and offer
new support for the ejection models proposed by astronomer
The image of galaxy cluster MS0735.6+7421
above is a composite of images from the Hubble Space
Telescope (optical), the Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue),
and the Very Large Array radio telescope (red). The optical
view shows a large number of small, faint bodies giving off
visible light. The x-ray view reveals filaments of material
that lace around the cluster and divide it into
cells. The filaments trace the paths of
Birkeland currents, in which electric and magnetic
fields are aligned. The electric fields accelerate electrons
to velocities that can approach the speed of light. The
magnetic fields then cause the electrons to emit x-rays in a
synchrotron radiation. A similar process operates at
radio frequencies and reveals a filamentary core to the
These high-energy currents in the plasma that composes the
cluster are the equivalent in space of lightning on Earth.
They indicate that the cluster is caught in a cosmic-sized
thunderbolt and is in a highly excited (electrical) state.
One would expect its light to have a significant
intrinsic redshift and its position on the sky to lie
line of ejection of a galaxy group.
And one’s expectations would be satisfied: The cluster has a
redshift of z = 0.216, and it lies about 10 degrees
northwest of the large, bright galaxy M81. M81 has a line of
quasars, plasma clouds, active galaxies (including the
M82), and other galaxy clusters stretching up to 25
degrees to the southeast and 15 degrees to the
northwest—past the location of this cluster. (M81 has a
negative redshift—a blueshift—of 0.000113.)
The M81 group [see p. 164 in Seeing Red by Halton Arp,
here] is one of the nearest galaxy groups to our own
Local Group. Astronomers have resolved Cepheid variable
stars in M81 and with them have been able to ascertain M81’s
likely distance: 11.8 million light years. At that distance,
this cluster would be about 10,000 light years across. The
bodies that compose it would be only a few hundred light
years in size and are the fragmented ejection (a BL Lac—see
Seeing Red, p. 163) from an active member of M81’s family.
If the x-ray and radio filaments can be traced back to that
parent object, it’s likely that another body, probably a
quasar, with a redshift similar to this cluster, can be
identified on the opposite side.
Contributed by Mel Acheson
Please check out Professor Don Scott's
new book The Electric Sky.