Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2002 June 3
Explanation: Why are huge clouds of gas billowing from spiral galaxy NGC 4388? The extent of the gas clouds, over 100,000 light-years, was unexpected before the Subaru Telescope took the above image. NGC 4388 has a bright energetic nucleus and so is classified as an active galaxy. The spiral, relatively close by at 60 million light years, is a member of the nearest major cluster of galaxies: the Virgo Cluster. One hypothesis holds that the gas was stripped away as NGC 4388 made its way through the intergalactic medium of the Virgo Clustersmaller galaxy that was gravitationally deconstructed by the larger NGC 4388. Further observations may better determine NGC 4388's past and likely contribute to a better understanding of how galaxies evolve inside massive clusters.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.