The spiral galaxy ESO 137-001 looks like a dandelion caught in a breeze in this new Hubble Space Telescope image. The galaxy is zooming toward the upper right of this image, in between other galaxies in the Norma cluster located over 200 million light-years away. The road is harsh: intergalactic gas in the Norma cluster is sparse, but so hot at 180 million degrees Fahrenheit that it glows in X-rays.
The brown, smoky region near the center of the spiral is being pushed in a similar manner, although in this case it is small dust particles, and not gas, that are being dragged backwards by the intra-cluster medium.
From a star-forming perspective, ESO 137-001 really is spreading its seeds into space like a dandelion in the wind. The stripped gas is now forming stars. However, the galaxy, drained of its own star-forming fuel, will have trouble making stars in the future. Through studying this runaway spiral, and other galaxies like it, astronomers hope to gain a better understanding of how galaxies form stars and evolve over time.
The image, obtained through Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, is also decorated with hundreds of stars from within our own Milky Way galaxy. Though not connected in the slightest to ESO 137-001, these stars and the two reddish elliptical galaxies contribute to a vibrant celestial vista.
The Daily Galaxy via Ray Villard, Space Science Telescope Institute, Baltimore, Md.