Astronomy Picture of the Day

Streams of Stars in the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies

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Streams of Stars in the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies

How do huge clusters of galaxies evolve?

To help find out, astronomers pointed the wide-angle
Burrell-Schmidt telescope on
Kitt Peak National Observatory in
USA at the nearby
Virgo Cluster of Galaxies.

After hundreds of 15-minute exposures taken over two months in early 2004,
the result is a dramatically deep and wide angle image of
Virgo, the closest
cluster of galaxies to our
Milky Way Galaxy.

Bright foreground stars have been digitally removed from
the image but are still represented by numerous unusual dark spots.

Inspection of the
above image
shows unusually large halos for the brightest galaxies as well as
unusual faint streams of stars connecting
Virgo galaxies
that previously appeared unrelated.

The above image
allows a better reconstruction of the past few billion years
of the gigantic
Virgo cluster and illuminates the dynamics of
clusters of galaxies in general.

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