Posts Tagged ‘spiral galaxy’

A Jellyfish on the Move

NASA/ESA Hubble/CXC

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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Arching Eyebrow Frames Galactic Eye

NASA, ESA

An arching lane of dark dust resembles an eyebrow above a blue eye in this image of Arp 116 from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore this unusual galactic pair. What stories or pictures do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

These two galaxies couldn’t be more different. The giant elliptical galaxy in the center is known as Messier 60. The smaller spiral galaxy is NGC 4647. M60 is a classic example of elliptical galaxies. The massive galaxies are usually featureless, egg shaped galaxies that are very bright. Nearly a trillion stars can make up their bright cores and diffuse halos. Most notable in this pair is the color. Elliptical galaxies tend to have less gas and dust used in star making. So the stars in these galaxies are older yellow and red stars.

NGC 4647, on the other hand, is full of new blue stars. Dark lanes of dust and faint blotches of nebulae line the galactic arms offering fuel for future star formation. The galaxy is about the size of our own Milky Way Galaxy but is a lightweight compared to the M60 galaxy. The smaller spiral galaxy is only about two-thirds the size of its massive companion.

As you explore, look for dozens of faraway galaxies of various shapes through the bright haze of M60.

While the two galaxies overlap as seen from Earth, astronomers are not sure whether the two are close enough to interact. Waves of star formation at the edges of the galaxies usually offer the clearest signs that interactions are occurring. Recent studies from the Hubble Space Telescope do suggest that early interactions, a slight pushing and pulling of galaxies spiral arms, between the two are occurring.

M60 lies about 50 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation Virgo, the Virgin. NGC 4647 is a little more distant, roughly 63 million light-years away.

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Dust on the Edge

ESA/Hubble & NASA

Dust reddens the starlight along the edge of NGC 891 in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore this close-up zoom of the spiral galaxy seen edge-on. What stories or shapes do you along the edge of the galaxy? Leave a note in the comments below.

NGC 891 spans about 100,000 light-years. This view is similar in many ways to our view of the Milky Way as it arcs across the night sky. The biggest difference however is that we see our dust-filled plane of our galaxy from the inside from about 10,000 light-years. Using Hubble’s powerful telescope we gaze into NGC 891 from a distance of about 30 million light-years. The bright galactic central bulge lies just off image at the bottom left. Zoom into the tendrils of dust set against the bright backdrop of the galaxy. Scattered throughout these filaments are areas of blue mist. These are areas of new star formation. Astronomers believe too that supernovae explosions scatter the dust, clearing out vast sections of space and pushing dust into dense pockets where more new stars can form.

NGC 891 is found toward the relatively open constellation of Andromeda, the mythical daughter of Cassiopeia and Cepheus. A few foreground stars from the Milky Way galaxy are seen blazing brightly in the image. Look also for distant elliptical and spiral galaxies scattered throughout the image.

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Dusty Starfish

ESA/NASA Hubble

A dusty starfish curls its legs in this image of NGC 2082 from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Dive into the rich starfields of the dusty starfish shaped galaxy known as NGC 2082. What shapes or stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

NGC 2082 is a classically shaped spiral galaxy. Start at the bright yellowish galactic core and move your way along the glowing curved arms. As you move outward, hop from the giant clusters of blue stars. These are hot, young blue stars born as dust and gas compress as the spiral arms orbit the galaxy over hundreds of thousands of years. Also look for areas of pink nebula. Hydrogen gas glows with a pinkish hue when the atoms are excited by ultraviolet radiation from massive stars. Filaments of dark dust, fuel for new stars and planets, weave an intricate pattern throughout the galaxy.

And when you’re done exploring the galaxy, turn your attention to the dozens of faraway galaxies found throughout the detailed image.

NGC 2082 is found about 60 million light-years from Earth toward the southern constellation Dorado, the Swordfish. English astronomer Sir John Herschel first recorded NGC 2082 during his observing expedition at the Cape of Good Hope in the 1830s.

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Floating in Hydra

Credit: NASA/ESA Hubble

An angelfish floats in the constellation of Hydra in this image of spiral galaxy NGC 4980 from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the curving tails of the slightly deformed shape of this spiral galaxy. What shapes or stories do you see? Leave a comment below.

Something has collided with NGC 4980. Although no galaxies are found nearby, the shape of the galaxy is slightly deformed. Distances between galaxies are huge. But every so often gravity pulls galaxies closer together. The stars themselves do not collide. Some may be thrown out of the galaxy, but most assume new orbits around the cores of their home galaxies. As the galaxies draw closer together, gas and dust clouds are pushed and pulled like taffy. New, hot blue stars blaze to life as nebulae are squeezed and compressed. This gives spiral arms in interacting galaxies a blue tinge. As we zoom into NGC 4980, look for areas of blue stars at the leading edges of the spiral arms. Look also at the center bulge. Galactic cores are usually a chaotic jumble of stars. But some galaxies like NGC 4980 keep their spiral arm structure all the way to the core. That detail makes the galaxy of interest to astronomers.

Dotting the background of this image, look for dozens of far-off galaxies. Older, cooler red stars dominate these elliptical and spiral galaxies. They are also much dimmer than NGC 4980 because they are farther away. This adds to their reddish color.

NGC 4980 lies about 80 million light-years from Earth toward the sprawling southern constellation of Hydra, the Snake.

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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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