Since it’s Halloween, NASA decided to ass a cosmic twist to the holiday by sharing an unexpected find by its Hubble Space telescope.
It seems that astronomers found a particular eerie “ghost light” shining through the universe which represents a picture of the remains of a multi-galaxy massacre.
Gravity represents one of the most feared foes of galaxies the size of our own Milky Way. Astronomers believe that as many as six similar galaxies fund their deaths in gravity’s powerful hands. According to them, the celestial bloodbath took place over a period of six billion years.
The group of galaxies in question was located approximately 4 billion light-years away, NASA experts say.
And just in time for Halloween, Hubble’s false color view of this “ghost light” was unveiled by NASA. The pictures show a “faint, ghostly glow”, astronomers say, as stars from those galaxies were being ripped from their cosmic homes. The region photographed, coincidentally, is nicknamed “Pandora’s Cluster”.
“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.”
Ignacio Trujillo, of the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain, said.
In the same statement, NASA officials described the stars photographed by Hubble as being “pulled apart like taffy”.
And however fitting this event is with the current holiday, the images captured by Hubble provide essential insight into what happened so many billion years ago, when the cluster’s stars began dying.
“The results are in good agreement with what has been predicted to happen inside massive galaxy clusters,”
Mireia Montes, study lead author said.
These orphaned stars have been something that astronomers had been searching for since the hypothesis was first postulated, and while Pandora’s cluster is home to about 200 billion such stars, the collective radiance of all these celestial bodies only makes up about 10 percent of the total light originating from the cluster.
This makes it particularly difficult for astronomers to perfectly detect and photograph the ghostly glow. Three years of observations with the Hubble Space Telescope were required.
Researchers published their findings in the Astrophysical Journal’s October issue.