Space can be such a drag

It’s not easy be­ing a galaxy in a clus­ter, hauled into the cen­tre to die by the grav­i­ta­tional tug from larger ob­jects

Sky at Night Magazine - - CONTENTS -


The inky black­ness be­tween gal­ax­ies and stars in as­tropho­tos might seem like empty space, but this is not al­ways the case. The huge red beam stretch­ing across this im­age of the Coma Clus­ter is gen­er­ated by a process known as ‘ram-pres­sure stripping’. As gal­ax­ies move within a clus­ter, they are ac­tu­ally push­ing through hot gas and dense plasma, which drags on the gal­ax­ies like the drag on a boat push­ing through wa­ter. Galaxy D100, on the far right of the im­age, is be­ing pulled to­wards the cen­tre of the clus­ter by the grav­i­ta­tional tug of other gal­ax­ies there. As this hap­pens, the drag causes enor­mous amounts of gas to be stripped from D100, cre­at­ing a huge tail in its wake. Once the galaxy loses all of its gas, un­able to cre­ate new stars, it will fade and die.

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