Stars forced to relocate near the Southern Fish

Mar 03, 2009
The three pictured galaxies -- NGC 7173 (middle left), NCG 7174 (middle right) and NGC 7176 (lower right) -- are part of the Hickson Compact Group 90, named after astronomer Paul Hickson, who first catalogued these small clusters of galaxies in the 1980s. NGC 7173 and NGC 7176 appear to be smooth, normal elliptical galaxies without much gas and dust. In stark contrast, NGC 7174 is a mangled spiral galaxy, barely clinging to independent existence as it is ripped apart by its close neighbors. The strong tidal interaction surging through the galaxies has dragged a significant number of stars away from their home galaxies. These stars are now spread out, forming a tenuous luminous component in the galaxy group. Credit: NASA, ESA and R. Sharples (University of Durham, U.K.)

About 100 million light-years away, in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish), three galaxies are playing a game of gravitational give-and-take that might ultimately lead to their merger into one enormous entity.

A new image from the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope allows astronomers to view the movement of gases from galaxy to galaxy, revealing the intricate interplay among them.

The three pictured galaxies — NGC 7173 (middle left), NCG 7174 (middle right) and NGC 7176 (lower right) — are part of the Hickson Compact Group 90, named after astronomer Paul Hickson, who first catalogued these small clusters of galaxies in the 1980s. NGC 7173 and NGC 7176 appear to be smooth, normal elliptical galaxies without much gas and dust.

In stark contrast, NGC 7174 is a mangled spiral galaxy, barely clinging to independent existence as it is ripped apart by its close neighbours. The strong tidal interaction surging through the galaxies has dragged a significant number of stars away from their home galaxies. These stars are now spread out, forming a tenuous luminous component in the galaxy group.

Ultimately, astronomers believe that the stars in NGC 7174 will be redistributed into a giant 'island universe', tens to hundreds of times as massive as our own Milky Way.

Source: ESA/Hubble Information Centre

Explore further: Partial solar eclipse over the U.S. on Thursday, Oct. 23

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Slow-growing galaxies offer window to early universe

Oct 16, 2014

What makes one rose bush blossom with flowers, while another remains barren? Astronomers ask a similar question of galaxies, wondering how some flourish with star formation and others barely bloom.

A crash course in galactic clusters and star formation

Oct 15, 2014

Clusters of galaxies have back-stories worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster: their existences are marked by violence, death and birth, arising after extragalactic pile-ups where groups of galaxies crashed into ...

Construction secrets of a galactic metropolis

Oct 15, 2014

Galaxy clusters are the largest objects in the Universe held together by gravity but their formation is not well understood. The Spiderweb Galaxy (formally known as MRC 1138-262) and its surroundings have ...

Scientists build first map of hidden universe

Oct 16, 2014

A team led by astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has created the first three-dimensional map of the 'adolescent' Universe, just 3 billion years after the Big Bang. This map, built from ...

Recommended for you

Partial solar eclipse over the U.S. on Thursday, Oct. 23

Oct 17, 2014

People in most of the continental United States will be in the shadow of the Moon on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 23, as a partial solar eclipse sweeps across the Earth. For people looking through sun-safe filters, from Los Angeles, ...

A newborn supernova every night

Oct 17, 2014

Thanks to a $9 million grant from the National Science Foundation and matching funds from the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) collaboration, a new camera is being built at Caltech's Palomar Observatory that ...

Scientists build first map of hidden universe

Oct 16, 2014

A team led by astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has created the first three-dimensional map of the 'adolescent' Universe, just 3 billion years after the Big Bang. This map, built from ...

User comments : 0