Two Hubble STUNNERS!

The entire universe in blog form
Sept. 30 2009 7:01 AM

Two Hubble STUNNERS!

If you thought the Lagoon yesterday was pretty, then reset your awe-meter. Check. This. Out.

hst_ngc4402

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Advertisement

D'ya like that? Huh? Do ya? Had enough? No? Then check THIS out!

hst_ngc4522

Jeebus. Click either to brobdingnangate. In fact, you can get massively huge versions here and here. We're talking 30 and 40 Mb each, so be ye fairly warned, says I.

Those magnificent images are of the galaxies NGC 4402 and NGC 4522, respectively, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys (from before the recent repair mission). They're both spiral galaxies in the Virgo Cluster, the nearest large collection of galaxies to us, roughly 60 million light years from Earth.

If they look funny to you, then good! The Virgo Cluster is massive, and has a lot of gravity. The galaxies bound to it are moving like bees surrounding a hive, each in its own orbit going every which way. These galaxies are screaming through the cluster at speeds of 10 million kilometers per hour, a truly terrifying velocity.

There is an ethereal gas distributed between the galaxies called the intercluster medium. It's incredibly thin, but over the size of a galaxy -- especially when said galaxy is barreling through it at such tremendous speed -- the gas can exert significant pressure, called ram pressure. The pressure is actually blowing the galaxies' internal gas clouds out into the cluster itself, making them look a little bit like pickup trucks driving down a highway with dirt copiously pouring out the beds*. This is especially obvious in NGC 4522 (the lower one), where you can see bright blue splotches, which are regions of intense star formation, along with dark lanes of dust actually above the galactic plane.

In NGC 4022, you can see how the ram pressure is roiling up the dust in the galaxy, and also blowing it back, though apparently not as briskly as in the other galaxy.

These pictures are incredible. Poke around them; you can see amazing detail in the galaxies themselves, as well as hundreds, maybe thousands of background galaxies.

It's been a while since we've seen deep, glorious pictures of spiral galaxies from Hubble. Now that ACS is working again, and it's being joined by the equally powerful Wide Field Camera 3, we'll be seeing lots more of these. Get used to it.

Image credits: NASA and ESA.


*Or possibly more like wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?