Galaxy Clusters in the REFLEX Catalogue
Clusters of galaxies are very large building blocks of the Universe. These gigantic structures contain hundreds to thousands of galaxies and, less visible but equally interesting, an additional amount of "dark matter" whose origin still defies the astronomers, with a total mass of thousands of millions of millions times the mass of our Sun. The comparatively nearby Coma cluster, for example, contains thousands of galaxies and measures more than 20 million light-years across. Another well-known example is the Virgo cluster at a distance of about 50 million light-years, and still stretching over an angle of more than 10 degrees in the sky!
Clusters of galaxies form in the densest regions of the Universe. As such, they perfectly trace the backbone of the large-scale structures in the Universe, in the same way that lighthouses trace a coastline. Studies of clusters of galaxies therefore tell us about the structure of the enormous space in which we live.
ESO Press Video eso0419 illustrates the three-dimensional distribution of the galaxy clusters identfied in the ROSAT All-Sky survey in the northern and southern sky. In addition to the galaxy clusters in the REFLEX catalogue this movie also contains those identified during the ongoing, deeper search for X-ray clusters: the extension of the southern REFLEX Survey and the northern complementary survey that is conducted by the MPE team at the Calar Alto observatory and at US observatories in collaboration with John Huchra and coworkers at the Harvard-Smithonian Center for Astrophysics. In total, more than 1400 X-ray bright galaxy cluster have been found to date. (Prepared by Ferdinand Jamitzky.)