Cosmic thunder

Published: Sunday 31 May 1998

in the far reaches of space, cosmic thunderstorms are generating windspeeds of more than 965 kilometres per second and temperatures hotter than the Sun, report scientists.

Massive clusters of galaxies are colliding at supersonic speed millions of light years away, creating intense shock and violent turbulence. However,there will be no tangible effects on the Earth as the storms are occuring far away. But one of these galgatic weather systems is likely to brush the planet. The "local cluster" containing the Milky way is being sucked towards the larger Virgo cluster -- although the crunch will not come for several billion years.

Astronomers led by Jack Burns from the University of Missouri, usa , have used data from radio and x -ray telescopes combined with supercomputer simulations to produce the weather report. The study is funded by nasa and the us National Science Foundation. The astronomers say, "The weather report for the galaxy clusters is strong with alternating high and low pressure, high winds, turbulence and heat waves. With time, the weather will calm as the accretion events become more rare."

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