March 6, 2014 - A new image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows spiral galaxy ESO 137-001 being ripped into several pieces.
Discovery News has described the image as the Universe's R-rated movie, complete with an innocent galaxy being butchered at the heart of a star cluster called Abell 3627.
The blue streaks of light seen in the image are stars that are being torn apart from the galaxy. According to Hubble, ESO 137-001 is undergoing a process known as ram pressure stripping.
Ram Pressure is a drag force experienced by a body moving through a fluid. It's almost like the pressure of wind experienced by a moving bicyclist. In the present context, the "fluid" is superheated gas in the center of a galaxy cluster. Ram pressure stripping of a galaxy is a commonly observed phenomenon.
ESO 137-001 is moving through a dense center in Abell 3627- a galaxy cluster with superheated gas, Discovery News reported.
"As with most images from Hubble, this is not just a pretty picture; it tells us a great deal about the harsh environment at the heart of a galaxy cluster, and the fate of galaxies like ESO 137-001 that find passage through it," Hubble said in a statement.
ESO 137-001 is located in the southern constellation of Triangulum Australe (The Southern Triangle) and is a part of Norma Cluster. The galaxy cluster is near the Great Attractor, a region with a gravitational force so strong that it is pulling several galaxy clusters toward it.
NASA's Hubble also imaged ESO 137-002, neighbor of the disrobed galaxy. ESO 137-002 is also showing a hot tail of gas, which is extending into space.
The images will help researchers understand the mechanisms that help galaxies evolve.
The observation was made by Hubble Space Telescope and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, according to Discovery News.