Hubble's sweeping view of the Coma Galaxy Cluster

Jun 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: The changing laws that determine how dust affects the light that reaches us from the stars

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Clues to the growth of the colossus in Coma

Sep 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 ...

Cosmic giants shed new light on dark matter

Jun 13, 2013

(Phys.org) —Astronomers at the University of Birmingham (UK), Academica Sinica in Taiwan, and the Kavli Institute of Physics and Mathematics of the Universe in Japan, have found new evidence that the mysterious ...

Rare case of gravitational lensing reported (Update)

Jun 26, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Seeing is believing, except when you don't believe what you see. Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have found a puzzling arc of light behind an extremely massive cluster of galaxies ...

Herschel reveals galaxy-packed filament

May 17, 2012

(Phys.org) -- A McGill-led research team using the Herschel Space Observatory has discovered a giant, galaxy-packed filament ablaze with billions of new stars. The filament connects two clusters of galaxies ...

Astronomers discover biggest black holes ever (Update)

Dec 05, 2011

University of California, Berkeley, astronomers have discovered the largest black holes to date two monsters with masses equivalent to 10 billion suns that are threatening to consume anything, even light, ...

Recommended for you

ESO image: A study in scarlet

Apr 16, 2014

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

Astronomers: 'Tilt-a-worlds' could harbor life

Apr 15, 2014

A fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah's Weber State University and NASA. In fact, ...

Pushy neighbors force stellar twins to diverge

Apr 15, 2014

(Phys.org) —Much like an environment influences people, so too do cosmic communities affect even giant dazzling stars: Peering deep into the Milky Way galaxy's center from a high-flying observatory, Cornell ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

(Phys.org) —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...

Let's put a sailboat on Titan

The large moons orbiting the gas giants in our solar system have been getting increasing attention in recent years. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only natural satellite known to house a thick atmosphere. ...

Robotics goes micro-scale

(Phys.org) —The development of light-driven 'micro-robots' that can autonomously investigate and manipulate the nano-scale environment in a microscope comes a step closer, thanks to new research from the ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...