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💫Galaxy NGC 1427A Plunges Toward the Fornax Galaxy Cluster


What happens when a galaxy falls in with the wrong crowd? The irregular galaxy NGC 1427A is a spectacular example of the resulting stellar rumble. Under the gravitational grasp of a large gang of galaxies, called the Fornax cluster, the small bluish galaxy is plunging headlong into the group at 600 kilometers per second or nearly 400 miles per second. NGC 1427A, which is located some 62 million light-years away from Earth in the direction of the constellation Fornax, shows numerous hot, blue stars in this newly released image obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope. These blue stars have been formed very recently, showing that star formation is occurring extensively throughout the galaxy. Galaxy clusters, like the Fornax cluster, contain hundreds or even thousands of individual galaxies. Within the Fornax cluster, there is a considerable amount of gas lying between the galaxies. When the gas within NGC 1427A collides with the Fornax gas, it is compressed to the point that it starts to collapse under its own gravity.



This leads to formation of the myriad of new stars seen across NGC 1427A, which give the galaxy an overall arrowhead shape that appears to point in the direction of the galaxy's high-velocity motion. The tidal forces of nearby galaxies in the cluster may also play a role in triggering star formation on such a massive scale. NGC 1427A will not survive long as an identifiable galaxy passing through the cluster. Within the next billion years, it will be completely disrupted, spilling its stars and remaining gas into intergalactic space within the Fornax cluster. To the upper left of NGC 1427A is a background galaxy that happens to lie near Hubble's line of sight but is some 25 times further away. In contrast to the irregularly shaped NGC 1427A, the background galaxy is a magnificent spiral, somewhat similar to our own Milky Way. Stars are forming in its symmetric pinwheel-shaped spiral arms, which can be traced into the galaxy's bright nucleus. This galaxy is, however, less dominated by very young stars than NGC 1427A, giving it an overall yellower color. At even greater distances background galaxies of various shapes and colors are scattered across the Hubble image.


Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

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