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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 January, 2004, 13:08 GMT
New stars form near doomed galaxy
By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

Galactic collision
Gas comes streaming out
Astronomers have taken detailed images of streamers of seething gas formed as a galaxy plunges through the heart of a distant cluster of galaxies.

The galaxy that is being destroyed was once similar to our Milky Way.

The images were taken by several observatories, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray telescope, which is also in orbit.

When combined the images show new stars are being formed in the gas torn away from the doomed galaxy.

Large-scale distrurbance

The images, taken over several wavelengths, show how gas is being stripped from the doomed galaxy, called C153.

Combining images taken in X-ray, radio, and visible wavelengths as well as the distinctive green light of oxygen, astronomers traced how stars, gas, and dust are being tossed around and torn from the fragile galaxy.

Long streamers of gas are seen flowing from the galaxy as it travels through the cluster, called Abell 2125.

The galaxy cluster is about 3 billion light-years away, and the image spans about 1 million light-years across.

Hubble Space Telescope image
Optical observations show a disturbed galaxy
The visible-light image taken by Hubble reveals intricate detail in the structure of stars and dust within C153.

The galaxy exhibits evidence of a large-scale disturbance that has left its star-forming regions concentrated to one side of its disk and beyond.

Dust features are twisted into chaotic patterns, obscuring any spiral pattern the galaxy once had.

X-ray emission, imaged by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, shows a gas tail extending from C153, which roughly matches the glowing gas tail observed in visible light.

Radio observations reveal high-energy particles as they spiral through the galaxy's magnetic field.

They probably came from an energetic black hole that was fuelled by a collision between two galaxy clusters. This emission first marked C153 as unusual, leading scientists to conduct further observations.

Large camera delights astronomers
10 Nov 03  |  Science/Nature
Hubble studies galactic anatomy
08 Sep 03  |  Science/Nature
Telescopes catch-up with Hubble
02 Jul 03  |  Science/Nature

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