Cosmic Photo Reveals 1,000 Galaxies in 'Coma Cluster'

A majestic spiral galaxy swirling with dark tendrils of gas stands out in a new photo of one of the most densely packed regions of the universe.

The new photo shows the galaxy NGC 4911 in the dense Coma Cluster of galaxies. A clutch of newborn stars can be seen sparkling inside pink hydrogen gas behind darker lanes of dust and gas in the image, which was taken during a long exposure using the Hubble Space Telescope. [New photo of galaxy NGC 4911.]

The outer spiral arms are visible as a smoky white glow amidst a background packed with other galaxies.

Almost 1,000 galaxies reside in the Coma Cluster, making it one of the densest collections of galaxies in the universe. Collisions among these galaxy systems continue in the present epoch to churn star formation at vigorous rates and alter one another's shapes.

In this image, the gravitational influence of nearby galaxy, called NGC 4911A, in the upper right is exerting a tug on the galaxy's arms, loosening material that will eventually be dispersed through the Coma Cluster's center to fuel further stars and clusters between existing galaxies.

The Coma Cluster is 320 million light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices.

The image was formed from a considerably long 28 hours of exposure time, the Space Science Telescope Institute said in a statement. It combined observations from the 2006, 2007, and 2009 Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and Advanced Camera for Surveys.

Copyright © 2010 All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.