The Victor M. Blanco Telescope in Chile has captured a galaxy in the Fornax cluster that will soon cease to exist. Image courtesy of Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), owned by NOIRLab’s research and development center.
The Fornax Cluster is located in the constellation of the same name and is a relatively close cluster of galaxies, only 60 million light-years from Earth. It can be seen in the night sky, where it covers an area 100 times larger than the full moon. The Fornax cluster itself contains 600 galaxies, and is the second most abundant within 100 million light years of the Milky Way. In the first place is the Virgo galactic cluster.
Two elliptical galaxies (NGC 1399 and NGC 1404) dominate the center of the new image – visible as two large patches of scattered light with bright cores. Such galaxies usually contain older stars than spiral galaxies. NGC 1399 and NGC 1404 are some of the brightest objects in the Fornax Cluster, moving closer together due to the force of gravity. This process strips gas away from NGC 1404, the lower elliptical galaxy in this image.
Irregular galaxy NGC 1427A is visible in the lower left corner of the image. This ragged patch of light is a small collection of stars, similar to the Large Magellanic Cloud. Like NGC 1404, NGC 1427A is traveling towards the heart of the cluster at roughly 2.2 million km / h. Astronomers explain that this process will eventually destroy the doomed galaxy.
The image was captured by the 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera (DECam) as part of the Dark Energy Survey.