Café and Kosmos on February 7, 2023

Dance of the giants: How clusters of galaxies accelerate particles

Galaxy cluster (Image: Magneticum/Dolag)

Galaxy cluster (Image: Magneticum/Dolag)

Galaxy clusters consist of up to several thousand galaxies and are the largest known structures in the cosmos. The collision of galaxy clusters releases more energy than any other physical process since the Big Bang. Much of this energy propagates through the thin gas that fills the space between galaxies in galaxy clusters in the form of shock waves several million light-years across. The gas heats up to several 100 million degrees in the process, and some of the electrons and protons are accelerated to speeds that no particle accelerator on Earth can approach.

At this Café & Kosmos evening, Ludwig Böss from the University Observatory of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich (LMU) explains how researchers simulate these processes in modern supercomputers and how this helps us to understand the complex plasma physics in galaxy clusters.