Jellyfish-Like Galaxy Appears To Be Shedding All Over Space

Is that a tractor beam trying to latch on to galaxy ESO 137-001? While the bold blue stripe in the picture above looks like a Star Trek-like technology, this new picture combination captures a stream of gas shining brightly in X-rays.

The “galactic disrobing” is taking place as the galaxy moves through the center of a star cluster full of superheated gas, scientists said. You can see another shot of the chaos below the jump.

From Earth’s perspective, the galaxy (which looks a little like a jellyfish) is found in the Triangulum Australe (The Southern Triangle) , and is part of the Norma Cluster that is about 200 million light-years from the Milky Way (our own galaxy). ESO 137-001 is moving through a galaxy cluster called Abell 3627. All of the superheated gas in this region is making ESO 137-001 bleed gas from its own structure as it goes.

“These streaks are actually hot young stars, encased in wispy streams of gas that are being torn away from the galaxy by its surroundings as it moves through space,” stated the Hubble European Space Agency Information Centre. “This violent galactic disrobing is due to a process known as ram pressure stripping — a drag force felt by an object moving through a fluid. The fluid in question here is superheated gas, which lurks at the centres of galaxy clusters.”

“This image also shows other telltale signs of this process, such as the curved appearance of the disc of gas and dust — a result of the forces exerted by the heated gas,” the centre added. “The cluster’s drag may be strong enough to bend ESO 137-001, but in this cosmic tug-of-war the galaxy’s gravitational pull is strong enough to hold on to the majority of its dust — although some brown streaks of dust displaced by the stripping are visible.”

This stripping has been caught in other images, such as these 2007 and 2010 pictures from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

Source: Hubble European Space Agency Information Centre

A Hubble Space Telescope image of spiral galaxy ESO 137-001 moving through galaxy cluster Abell 3627. The tendrils (visible in ultraviolet light) are gas flowing away from the galaxy as it moves through superheated gas in the area. Credit: NASA, ESA
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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