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In the Heart of the Virgo Cluster : The Virgo Cluster of Galaxies is the closest cluster of galaxies to our Milky Way Galaxy. The Virgo Cluster is so close that it spans more than 5 degrees on the sky - about 10 times the angle made by a full Moon. With its heart lying about 70 million light years distant, the Virgo Cluster is the nearest cluster of galaxies, contains over 2,000 galaxies, and has a noticeable gravitational pull on the galaxies of the Local Group of Galaxies surrounding our Milky Way Galaxy. The cluster contains not only galaxies filled with stars but also gas so hot it glows in X-rays. Motions of galaxies in and around clusters indicate that they contain more dark matter than any visible matter we can see. Pictured above, the heart of the Virgo Cluster includes bright Messier galaxies such as Markarians Eyes on the upper left, M86 just to the upper right of center, M84 on the far right, as well as spiral galaxy NGC 4388 at the bottom right. via NASA

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The Porpoise Galaxy from Hubble 

What’s happening to this spiral galaxy? Just a few hundred million years ago, NGC 2936, the upper of the two large galaxies shown, was likely a normal spiral galaxy – spinning, creating stars – and minding its own business. But then it got too close to the massive elliptical galaxy NGC 2937 below and took a dive.

Dubbed the Porpoise Galaxy for its iconic shape, NGC 2936 is not only being deflected but also being distorted by the close gravitational interaction. A burst of young blue stars forms the nose of the porpoise toward the right of the upper galaxy, while the center of the spiral appears as an eye. Alternatively, the galaxy pair, together known as Arp 142, look to some like a penguin protecting an egg. Either way, intricate dark dust lanes and bright blue star streams trail the troubled galaxy to the lower right.

In a billion years or so the two galaxies will likely merge into one larger galaxy.

NGC 1097 in Fornax

NGC 1097 (also known as Arp 77) is a Seyfert-type barred spiral galaxy spanning about 125 thousand light-years across, located about 45 million light-years away in the southern constellation of Fornax.  At its center is a huge supermassive black hole approximately 100 million times the mass of our Sun.

Credit: David M. Jurasevich