Tuesday, March 14, 2006

CG4 - A Ruptured Cometary Globule - Credit & Copyright: T. A. Rector (U. Alaska), T. Abbott, NOAO, AURA, NSF

Can a gas cloud eat a galaxy? It's not even close. The odd looking "creature" in the center of the photo is a gas cloud known as a cometary globule . This globule, however, has ruptured. Cometary globules are typically characterized by dusty heads and elongated tails . These features cause cometary globules to have visual similarities to comets, but in reality they are very much different. Globules are frequently the birthplaces of stars, and many show very young stars in their heads. The reason for the rupture in the head of this object is not completely known. The galaxy to the left of center is huge, very far in the distance, and only placed near CG4 by chance superposition.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Stephan’s Quintet Galaxy Cluster - Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Max Planck Institute

Stephan’s Quintet Galaxy Cluster
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Max Planck Institute

This false-color composite image of the Stephan’s Quintet galaxy cluster clearly shows one of the largest shock waves ever seen (green arc). The wave was produced by one galaxy falling toward another at speeds of more than one million miles per hour. The image is made up of data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and a ground-based telescope in Spain.

Four of the five galaxies in this picture are involved in a violent collision, which has already stripped most of the hydrogen gas from the interiors of the galaxies. The centers of the galaxies appear as bright yellow-pink knots inside a blue haze of stars, and the galaxy producing all the turmoil, NGC7318b, is the left of two small bright regions in the middle right of the image. One galaxy, the large spiral at the bottom left of the image, is a foreground object and is not associated with the cluster.

The titanic shock wave, larger than our own Milky Way galaxy, was detected by the ground-based telescope using visible-light wavelengths. It consists of hot hydrogen gas. As NGC7318b collides with gas spread throughout the cluster, atoms of hydrogen are heated in the shock wave, producing the green glow.

Stephan's Quintet is located 300 million light-years away in the Pegasus constellation.