Hubble's sweeping view of the Coma Galaxy Cluster

June 10, 2008
The Coma Galaxy Cluster as Seen by Hubble
Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys has viewed a large portion of the Coma Cluster, stretching across several million light-years across. The entire spherical cluster is more than 20 million light-years in diameter and contains thousands of galaxies. Most of the galaxies that inhabit the central portion of the Coma Cluster are elliptical galaxies. These featureless “fuzz-balls” are a pale golden brown in colour and contain populations of old stars. Both dwarf and giant ellipticals are found in abundance in the Coma Cluster. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). Acknowledgment: M. Carter (Liverpool John Moores University) and the Coma HST ACS Treasury Team

Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys has observed a large portion of the Coma Cluster, stretching across several million light-years. The entire cluster is more than 20 million light-years in diameter, is nearly spherical in shape and contains thousands of galaxies.

Also known as Abell 1656, the Coma Cluster is over 300 million light-years away. The cluster, named after its parent constellation Coma Berenices, is near the Milky Way's north pole. This places the Coma Cluster in an area that is not obscured by dust and gas from the plane of the Milky Way, and so is easily visible to observers here on Earth.

Most of the galaxies that inhabit the central portion of the Coma Cluster are elliptical galaxies. These apparently featureless "fuzz-balls" are a pale golden brown in colour and contain populations of old stars. Both dwarf and giant ellipticals are found in abundance in the Coma Cluster.

Farther out from the centre of the cluster there are several spiral galaxies. These galaxies contain clouds of cold gas that are giving birth to new stars. Spiral arms and dust lanes "accessorise" these bright bluish-white galaxies, which have a distinctive disc structure.

S0 (S-zero) galaxies form a morphological class of objects between the better known elliptical and spiral galaxies. They consist of older stars and show little evidence of recent star formation, but they do show some structure — perhaps a bar or a ring that may eventually give rise to more disc-like features.

This Hubble image consists of a section of the cluster that is roughly one-third of the way out from the centre of the whole cluster. One bright spiral galaxy is visible in the upper left of the image. It is distinctly brighter and bluer than the galaxies surrounding it. A series of dusty spiral arms appears reddish brown against the whiter disc of the galaxy, and suggests that this galaxy has been disturbed at some point in the past. The other galaxies in the image are either ellipticals, S0 galaxies or background galaxies that are far beyond the Coma Cluster sphere.

The data for the Coma Cluster were taken as part of a survey of a nearby rich galaxy cluster. Collectively they will provide a key database for studies of galaxy formation and evolution. This survey will also help to compare galaxies in different environments, both crowded and isolated, as well as to compare relatively nearby galaxies with more distant ones (at higher redshifts).

Source: Hubble Information Centre

Explore further: Dead galaxies in Coma Cluster may be packed with dark matter

Related Stories

Scientists discover the fluffiest galaxies

May 14, 2015

An international team of researchers led by Pieter van Dokkum at Yale University have used the W. M. Keck Observatory to confirm the existence of the most diffuse class of galaxies known in the universe. These "fluffiest ...

Clues to the growth of the colossus in Coma

September 19, 2013

A team of astronomers has discovered enormous arms of hot gas in the Coma cluster of galaxies by using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton. These features, which span at least half a million light years, ...

Giant cosmic tsunami wakes up comatose galaxies

April 24, 2015

Galaxies are often found in clusters, with many 'red and dead' neighbours that stopped forming stars in the distant past. Now an international team of astronomers, led by Andra Stroe of Leiden Observatory and David Sobral ...

Recommended for you

First detection of lithium from an exploding star

July 29, 2015

The chemical element lithium has been found for the first time in material ejected by a nova. Observations of Nova Centauri 2013 made using telescopes at ESO's La Silla Observatory, and near Santiago in Chile, help to explain ...

Dense star clusters shown to be binary black hole factories

July 29, 2015

The coalescence of two black holes—a very violent and exotic event—is one of the most sought-after observations of modern astronomy. But, as these mergers emit no light of any kind, finding such elusive events has been ...

New names and insights at Ceres

July 29, 2015

Colorful new maps of Ceres, based on data from NASA's Dawn spacecraft, showcase a diverse topography, with height differences between crater bottoms and mountain peaks as great as 9 miles (15 kilometers).

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.