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Beyond Earthly Skies

A Stray Blue Supergiant Star

12 Apr 2013, 10:13 UTC
A Stray Blue Supergiant Star
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The Virgo Cluster is the nearest massive cluster of galaxies (~50 million light years away) and it contains well over a thousand member galaxies. Such a massive cluster of galaxies creates a huge gravitational potential well around it and galaxies from outside do occasionally fall in at very high speeds. One such galaxy is IC 3418 - a dwarf irregular galaxy that is falling into the Virgo Cluster at a very high speed of ~1000 km/s. IC 3418 features a long trail of material measuring over 50,000 light years in length. This trail is believed to have formed behind IC 3418 due to ram pressure stripping of material from IC 3418 as it plows through the intergalactic medium on its plunge into the Virgo Cluster.Signs of star formation are evident within the long trail of material behind IC 3418. This is a unique environment for star formation because stars that form here are technically in intergalactic space where the density of gas and dust is a lot sparser than in a galaxy. In contrasts, traditional star formation occurs within the denser environment of a galaxy. Spectroscopic observations of the star-forming trail of IC 3418 have revealed the presence of a ...

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