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Hubble Hooks a Cosmic Jellyfish

16 Nov 2018, 14:01 UTC
Hubble Hooks a Cosmic Jellyfish ESA/Hubble & NASAAcknowledgement: Judy Schmidt

At first glance, a bright blue crescent immediately jumps out of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image. Is it a bird? A plane? Evidence of extraterrestrial life? No — it’s a galaxy.

The shape of this galaxy admittedly appears to be somewhat bizarre, so confusion would be forgiven. This is due to a cosmic phenomenon called gravitational lensing. In this image, the gravitational influence of a massive galaxy cluster called SDSS J1110+6459 is causing the surrounding space-time to bend and warp, affecting the passage of any nearby light. A few more signs of lensing (streaks, blobs, curved lines, distorted shapes) can be seen dotted around the image.

Just below the right side of the prominent, blue arc appears a rare and interesting type of galaxy called a jellyfish galaxy, which seems to be dripping bright blue material. These are galaxies that lose gas via a process called galactic ram-pressure stripping, where the drag caused by the galaxy moving through space causes gas to be stripped away.

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