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The orbiting X-ray telescopes XXM-Newton and Chandra have caught a pair of galaxy clusters merging into a giant cluster. The discovery adds to existing evidence that galaxy clusters can collide faster than previously thought.
 When individual galaxies collide and spiral into one another, they discard trails of hot gas that stretch across space, providing signposts to the mayhem. Recognising the signs of collisions between whole clusters of galaxies, however, is not as easy.
Undaunted, Renato Dupke and colleagues from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, have used ESAs XMM-Newton and NASAs Chandra orbiting X-ray observatories, to disentangle the puzzling galaxy cluster, Abell 576.

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Title: The Merger in Abell 576: A Line of Sight Bullet Cluster?
Authors: Renato A. Dupke, Nestor Mirabal, Joel N. Bregman, August E. Evrard

Using a combination of Chandra and XMM observations, we confirmed the presence of a significant velocity gradient along the NE/E-W/SW direction in the intracluster gas of the cluster Abell 576. The results are consistent with a previous ASCA SIS analysis of this cluster. The error weighted average over ACIS-S3, EPIC MOS 1 & 2 spectrometers for the maximum velocity difference is >3.3E03 km/s at the 90% confidence level, similar to the velocity limits estimated indirectly for the "bullet" cluster (1E0657-56). The probability that the velocity gradient is generated by standard random gain fluctuations with Chandra and XMM is <0.1%. The regions of maximum velocity gradient are in CCD zones that have the lowest temporal gain variations. It is unlikely that the velocity gradient is due to Hubble distance differences between projected clusters (probability<~0.01%). We mapped the distribution of elemental abundance ratios across the cluster and detected a strong chemical discontinuity using the abundance ratio of silicon to iron, equivalent to a variation from 100% SN Ia iron mass fraction in the West-Northwest regions to 32% in the Eastern region. The "centre" of the cluster is located at the chemical discontinuity boundary, which is inconsistent with the radially symmetric chemical gradient found in some regular clusters, but consistent with a cluster merging scenario. We predict that the velocity gradient as measured will produce a variation of the CMB temperature towards the East of the core of the cluster that will be detectable by current and near-future bolometers. The measured velocity gradient opens for the possibility that this cluster is passing through a near line-of-sight merger stage where the cores have recently crossed.

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