Astronomy Picture of the Day
APOD: 2006 March 21 - The Coma Cluster of Galaxies
Explanation: Almost every object in the above photograph is a galaxy. The Coma Cluster of Galaxies pictured above is one of the densest clusters known - it contains thousands of galaxies. Each of these galaxies houses billions of stars - just as our own Milky Way Galaxy does. Although nearby when compared to most other clusters, light from the Coma Cluster still takes hundreds of millions of years to reach us. In fact, the Coma Cluster is so big it takes light millions of years just to go from one side to the other! Most galaxies in Coma and other clusters are ellipticals, while most galaxies outside of clusters are spirals. The nature of Coma's X-ray emission is still being investigated.
APOD: 2005 November 22 - A Galactic Collision in Cluster Abell 1185
Explanation: What is a guitar doing in a cluster of galaxies? Colliding. Clusters of galaxies are sometimes packed so tight that the galaxies that compose them collide. A prominent example occurs on the left of the above image of the rich cluster of galaxies Abell 1185. There at least two galaxies, cataloged as Arp 105 and dubbed The Guitar for their familiar appearance, are pulling each other apart gravitationally. Most of Abell 1185's hundreds of galaxies are elliptical galaxies, although spiral, lenticular, and irregular galaxies are all clearly evident. Many of the spots on the above image are fully galaxies themselves containing billions of stars, but some spots are foreground stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy. Recent observations of Abell 1185 have found unusual globular clusters of stars that appear to belong only to the galaxy cluster and not to any individual galaxy. Abell 1185 spans about one million light years and lies 400 million light years distant.
APOD: 1999 April 4 - Streams of Stars in the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies
Explanation: Is the gravity of the galaxies seen in this image high enough to contain the glowing hot gas? Superposed on an optical picture of a group of galaxies is an image taken in X-ray light. This picture, taken by ROSAT, shows confined hot gas highlighted in false red color, and provides clear evidence that the gravity exerted in groups and clusters of galaxies exceeds all the individual component galaxies combined. The extra gravity is attributed to dark matter, the nature and abundance of which is one of the biggest mysteries in astronomy today.
APOD: 2005 September 26 - Streams of Stars in the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies
Explanation: How do huge clusters of galaxies evolve? To help find out, astronomers pointed the wide-angle Burrell-Schmidt telescope on Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, USA at the nearby Virgo Cluster of Galaxies. After hundreds of 15-minute exposures taken over two months in early 2004, the result is a dramatically deep and wide angle image of Virgo, the closest cluster of galaxies to our Milky Way Galaxy. Bright foreground stars have been digitally removed from the image but are still represented by numerous unusual dark spots. Inspection of the above image shows unusually large halos for the brightest galaxies as well as unusual faint streams of stars connecting Virgo galaxies that previously appeared unrelated. The above image allows a better reconstruction of the past few billion years of the gigantic Virgo cluster and illuminates the dynamics of clusters of galaxies in general.
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