Two Hubble STUNNERS!

Bad Astronomy
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

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 8:32 AM Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy—and a Mess. Can the Movies Fix It?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 20 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Red Planet and the Comet
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.