Washington DC: Astronomers now know how cosmic winds strongly impacts galaxies, sweeping out interstellar material and stopping future star formation.
Yale astronomer Jeffrey Kenney looked at the way the cosmic wind erodes the gas and dust at the leading edge of the galaxy. The wind, or ram pressure, is caused by the galaxy's orbital motion through hot gas in the cluster. Kenney found a series of intricate dust formations on the disk's edge, as cosmic wind began to work its way through the galaxy.
He explained that on the leading side of the galaxy, all the gas and dust appears to be piled up in one long ridge, or dust front. But there were remarkable, fine scale structure in the dust front, and head-tail filaments protruding from the dust front. These may be caused by dense gas clouds becoming separated from lower density gas.
The evidence was that dust filaments in the HST (Hubble Space Telescope) image look like taffy being stretched out, and it was the first time they were seeing this decoupling clearly.
The analysis is based on Hubble images of a spiral galaxy in the Coma cluster, located 300 million light years from Earth. It is the closest high-mass cluster to our solar system.
Kenney first saw the images two years ago and realised their possible significance in understanding the way ram pressure strips interstellar material throughout the universe.
The research is published in the Astronomical Journal.