Credit: NASA & ESA

Weird forces are stripping gas away from galaxies within the Virgo cluster. NGC 4522 is caught in this process. The spiral galaxy’s rapid motion at more than 10 million kilometers per hour within the cluster sets up a strong stellar wind. That wind moves across the galaxy, distorting it and in some cases even stops star formation. Astronomers call the process “ram pressure stripping.” Ram pressure is the drag force that results while moving through a fluid or medium. The wind in your face as you walk is one example. This dragging force can sweep out lighter gas from within the galaxies, leaving it far behind in deep space.

Explore the NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of NGC 4522. Notice the curved disk of ghostly gas being forced out of the galaxy. Like a splash in a pond, bright blue pockets of new stars are seen to the right and left of the galactic center. Explore the hundreds of distant background galaxies in the image.

NGC 4522 is located about 60 million light-years within the Virgo cluster of galaxies.