Posts Tagged ‘ram pressure’

A Jellyfish on the Move


A jellyfish, blue tendrils trailing, speeds across this Hubble image of galaxy ESO 137-001. What shapes or stories do you see? Leave a note below.

heic1404b_screenIntense blue streaks trail ESO 137-001 in this composite image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Wisps of gas stream from hot blue stars as the spiral galaxy ESO 137-001 blasts through the heart of galaxy cluster Abell 3627. Astronomers call this stripping of gas and dust from a galaxy ram pressure stripping. Ram pressure is the drag felt by an object as it moves through a thick fluid, such as your body walking through water. The fluid here though would not be suitable for swimming. It’s superheated gas that lurks near the heart of all galaxy clusters.

Surrounding this galaxy are countless nearby stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy. ESO 137-001 lies near the plane of our galaxy, its light blocked by thick dust and gas. Farther away in the image, look for galaxies of all shapes and pointing in different directions. Most of those galaxies are far beyond ESO 137-001 and are not part of the Abell 3627 galaxy cluster. ESO-137-001 lies about 200 million light-years from Earth. It is part of the Norma Cluster near the center of a region of space called the Great Attractor. This area’s mass is so strong that even The Local Group, containing our galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy, feel the tug of this strong gravity source.

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Galactic Swirly

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.


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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