NASA Discovers Galaxy Cluster with Vibrant Heart
Called SpARCS1049+56, the galaxy can be seen in this multi-wavelength view from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. The cluster has at least 27 galaxy members, and a combined mass equal to nearly 400 trillion suns.
At the middle of the picture is the largest, member of the family of galaxies (upper right red dot of central pair). Unlike other central galaxies in clusters, this one is bursting with the birth of new stars.
At the core of most massive galaxy clusters lies a huge galaxy that usually doesn’t produce new stars very quickly. The galaxy dominating the cluster SpARCS1049+56 is rapidly spitting out an enormous number of stars. For reference, our Milky Way makes only about one to two stars per year.
This star birth was triggered by a collision between a smaller galaxy and the giant, central galaxy. The smaller galaxy’s wispy, shredded parts, called a tidal tail, can be seen coming out below the larger galaxy.
“It is very exciting to have discovered such an interesting object,” said Gillian Wilson, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Riverside and a member of the research team.
“Understanding its nature proved to be a real scientific challenge which required the combined efforts of an international team of astronomers and many of the world’s best telescopes to solve.”
Clusters of galaxies are rare regions of the universe consisting of hundreds of galaxies containing trillions of stars, plus hot gas and mysterious dark matter. The galaxies at the centers of clusters, called Brightest Cluster Galaxies, are the most massive galaxies in the universe.