Astronomers Discover A Galaxy With A Massive Tail Of Gas

Posted: Feb 23 2016, 2:51am CST | by , Updated: Feb 23 2016, 9:04pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Astronomers Discover a Galaxy with a Massive Tail of Gas
Spectacular tail of gas extending from galaxy NGC 4569. Credit: ICRAR

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Galaxy NGC 4569 is trailed by a spectacular plume of gas and it is five times longer than the galaxy itself.

Astronomers have spotted a unique galaxy that is trailed by a giant plume of gas measuring 300-000 light years across.

The plume is made up of hydrogen gas – a star-forming material – and is five times longer than the galaxy itself.

The galaxy NGC 4569 is located in Virgo cluster and is 55 million light years away from our own galaxy Milky Way. Scientists were aware of the presence of the galaxy a long time ago, however, they could not identify why the galaxy contains less gas than expected. But now they know where most of its gas had gone.

“We didn’t have the smoking gun, the clear evidence of direct removal of gas from the galaxy. Now with these observations, we’ve seen a huge amount of gas that creates a stream trailing behind the galaxy for the first time,” said Luca Cortese, an astrophysicist from International Center for Radio Astronomy Research, who was a part of the study.

“What’s very nice is that if you measure the mass of the stream, it’s the same amount of gas that is missing from the galaxy’s disc.”

Researchers used a super-sensitive camera on Canada France Hawaii Telescope for the research and observed the galaxy longer than ever before. They found that galaxy NGC 4569 is travelling through the cluster very fast – about 745 miles per second (1,200 kilometers a second) and this is exactly why the gas is stripping from the galaxy.

“We know that big clusters of galaxies trap a lot of hot gas,” said Dr Cortese. “So when a galaxy enters the cluster it feels the pressure of all the gas, like when you feel the wind on your face and that pressure is able to strip matter away from the galaxy.”

Researchers claim that this is the first known galaxy to have long tails of gas extending from them and possibly many more such kind of galaxies are lurking out there in the space.

“It’s pretty exciting because this was just a pilot and we only targeted the brightest spiral galaxy in the Virgo cluster,” said Cortese. “We were amazed by what we got… this is really promising because it means it’s very likely we’ll find similar features in many other galaxy clusters.”

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