Posts Tagged ‘Fornax’

Ringing a Bulls-Eye

NASA/ESA Hubble

A galactic bulls-eye ringed with pink nebulae is the only evidence of a rare galactic collision of NGC 922 that occurred millions of years ago.

Explore this awesome image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. What shapes or stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

NGC 922 used to be a spiral galaxy. But as you zoom across the image, the spiral arms look distorted and disrupted. Tell-tale signs of a galactic interaction are many from the large numbers of bright pink nebulae and blue stars to the spray of dim stars toward the top of the image. Ripples set up as the smaller galaxy passed through the gas and dust clouds of NGC 922 created new star formation. Ultraviolet radiation from these bright new stars cause hydrogen gas in the surrounding nebula to glow a characteristic pink. The tugs of gravity hurled thousands of stars outward.

Scientists believe that millions of years ago a small galaxy, known as 2MASXI J0224301-244443, plunged through the heart of NGC 922. Sometimes, if a small galaxy hits a larger galaxy just right, a circle is formed. But more often than not, galaxies are not aligned perfectly. When a galaxy smacks another off center, one side of the ring is brighter than the other. NGC 922 is a prime example of what astronomers call collisional ring galaxies.

As you explore the empty places of the image, look for faraway background galaxies. Several dim spiral galaxies dot the image both outside the galaxy and within the star-speckled interior.

NGC 922 is found about 330 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation Fornax. Fornax, the Furnace, is a constellation we haven’t visited before. Introduced by sky mapper and French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1756, Fornax is relatively devoid of stars allowing astronomers to peer deep into the universe. Astronomers targeted Fornax for the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image.

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Pieces of Fuzz

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

With loose spiral arms, NGC 1345 resembles a piece of starry fuzz in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the ragged spiral arms of NGC 1345. Astronomer John Herschel discovered NGC 1345 in 1835. He actually describes it as a small and very faint circular fuzz. NGC 1345 has an elongated bar starting at the nucleus and extending out. Spiral arms extend from the end of this bar. Astronomers call this type of galaxy a barred spiral. Our Milky Way Galaxy is likely a barred spiral galaxy. The center of the galaxy is dominated by older, yellow stars. Near the edge of the galaxy, look for young blue stars and star clusters scattered along the spiral arms.

Take a closer look and smaller pieces of fuzz dominate this image. Many reddish background galaxies with various shapes dot the celestial landscape. You can find spiral galaxies, edge-on galaxies, face-on galaxies, irregular galaxies and galaxies that are just faint smudges. Some shine through the glow of NGC 1345. And each of them contain billions of stars. NGC 1345 galaxy is part of a group of galaxies known as the Eridanus Galaxy Cluster. The group of about 70 galaxies lies 85 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation Eridanus, the River. That’s not so far away from the Milky Way Galaxy in astronomical terms. Near this location in the sky lies another great cluster of galaxies known as the Fornax Galaxy Cluster. Together, these two clusters form a galactic supercluster called the Fornax Supercluster or the Southern Supercluster.

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The ancient peoples saw pictures in the sky. From those patterns in the heavens, ancient storytellers created legends about heroes, maidens, dragons, bears, centaurs, dogs and mythical creatures...
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