Majestic spiral galaxy is located in the cosmos's most crowded corner

Illustration for article titled Majestic spiral galaxy is located in the cosmos's most crowded corner

This beauty is the spiral galaxy NGC 4911, located a third of a billion light-years away in the Coma Cluster of galaxies, one of the most tightly packed regions in the universe.


This image, taken by the Hubble telescope, is a marvel simply in how much detail it captures in such a distant object. According to NASA:

"The galaxy, known as NGC 4911, contains rich lanes of dust and gas near its center. These are silhouetted against glowing newborn star clusters and iridescent pink clouds of hydrogen, the existence of which indicates ongoing star formation. Hubble has also captured the outer spiral arms of NGC 4911, along with thousands of other galaxies of varying sizes. The high resolution of Hubble's cameras, paired with considerably long exposures, made it possible to observe these faint details."

Its home, the Coma Cluster, is crammed full with about 1,000 galaxies. The galaxies exert constant push and pull on each other, and NGC 4911 is currently being slowly distorted by its neighbor in the upper right corner. Located at the center of the cluster, this galaxy is particularly affected by these forces, and it's possible that it will ultimately collide and merge with another galaxy of similar size. As NASA explains:

NGC 4911 and other spirals near the center of the cluster are being transformed by the gravitational tug of their neighbors. In the case of NGC 4911, wispy arcs of the galaxy's outer spiral arms are being pulled and distorted by forces from a companion galaxy (NGC 4911A), to the upper right. The resultant stripped material will eventually be dispersed throughout the core of the Coma Cluster, where it will fuel the intergalactic populations of stars and star clusters.



I kept reading that first line as "mystic spiral" and kept thinking this band had made it to space...