European astronomers using using the XMM-Newton X-ray space telescope have captured a glimpse of an unprecedented rogue galaxy that's smashing through other galaxies at a rate of 814 miles (1,310 km) per second.

Top image: A cool and compact galaxy can be seen piercing through a cluster of galaxies known as Abell 4067. (ESA/XMM-Newton/G. Chon)

The cool and compact system is located 1.4 billion light-years away, so this happened a long, long time ago. As National Geographic is reporting, the bullet galaxy weighs about 200 trillion times as much as Earth, but it's traveling at 0.44% the speed of light as it ploughs through the Abell 4067 cluster of galaxies.


"The bullet goes right through the central region of the cluster without being disrupted and we can clearly watch the process how the bullet component is stripped of its layers outside the core," write researchers Gayoung Chon and Hans Boehringer in their study. "There is an indication of a shock heated region in the East of the cluster with a higher temperature."

(G. Chon)

Further observations of the bullet, which is centered by a massive early type galaxy, will help scientists understand how these massive celestial collisions unfold and how much these distant galaxies weigh. In addition, the astronomers are hoping to know how much gas surrounds the bullet and what the shock wave caused by the collision must have looked like.


The paper is set to appear in an upcoming edition of Astronomy and Astrophysics, but you can read it at the pre-print archive right now.

[ NatGeo ]