Ghost Galaxy

Multi-Galaxy Massacre: ‘Ghost Light’ Of Long-Dead Stars Haunt NASA’s Hubble Telescope On Halloween

NASA was recently haunted by galaxies past and released the “ghost light” images just in time for Halloween. The Hubble Space Telescope was able to capture an eerie “ghost light” from the remains of a multi-galaxy massacre.

According to Space.com, as many as six galaxies roughly the size of our own Milky Way met their grisly deaths at the hands of gravity. The celestial bloodbath occurred over a period of 6 billion years in a group of galaxies 4 billion light-years away. NASA unveiled Hubble’s false-color view of the “ghost light” on Thursday.

Ghost Galaxy
Massive galaxy cluster Abell 2744, nicknamed Pandora’s Cluster, takes on a ghostly look where total starlight has been artificially colored blue in this Hubble view.
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/IAC/HFF Team, STScI

In the official NASA statement regarding the celestial ghost image, the ancient galaxies were gravitationally ripped apart several billion years ago. However, there are still orphaned stars from the galaxy massacre floating freely creating the ghostly glare.

“The scattered stars are no longer bound to any one galaxy, and drift freely between galaxies in the cluster. By observing the light from the orphaned stars, Hubble astronomers have assembled forensic evidence that suggests as many as six galaxies were torn to pieces inside the cluster over a stretch of 6 billion years.”

Ignacio Trujillo of The Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain, that the data is vital for understanding the evolution of galaxy clusters.

“The Hubble data revealing the ghost light are important steps forward in understanding the evolution of galaxy clusters. It is also amazingly beautiful in that we found the telltale glow by utilizing Hubble’s unique capabilities.”

Astronomers have been searching for the light from these orphaned stars for some time, and while there are about 200 billion such stars in Pandora’s cluster alone, their collective radiance only makes up about 10 percent of the total light from the cluster. Thus, finding the ghostly glow required three years of observations with Hubble Space Telescope. NASA points out how only the Hubble could view these faint lights.

“Because these extremely faint stars are brightest at near-infrared wavelengths of light, the team emphasized that this type of observation could only be accomplished with Hubble’s infrared sensitivity to extraordinarily dim light.”

NASA also notes the importance of Galaxy clusters to get a rare glimpse into far off places.

“Galaxy clusters are so massive that their gravity deflects light passing through them, magnifying, brightening, and distorting light in a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. Astronomers exploit this property of space to use the clusters as a zoom lens to magnify the images of far-more-distant galaxies that otherwise would be too faint to be seen.”

It seems that all of space was gearing up for a spooky Halloween. Earlier this month NASA released images of the “Pumpkin Sun” and “Blood Moon” to start the season.

Comments