So what's up with this freak galaxy with the Don King hair? Is it trying to steam cook enormous broccoli? Actually, it's a victim of ram pressure stripping -- a force associated with rapid motion that can suck all of the gas out of a galaxy. This particular one, named NGC 4522 (obviously), is one of the most clear examples of the phenomenon. It's a part of a group of galaxies called the Virgo Cluster that contains between 1,300 and 2,000 galaxies. As it zips through space at over 6 million miles per hour like a fucking crazy-ass, it slams into slower-moving molecular gas, which rips out its own.
It gets no sympathy from me. There are younger galaxies in that neighborhood who are trying to play. They don't need some hot rod asshole endangering their lives.
This is one of the coolest things about space. As long as it stays a safe 500 million light-years from us, like this one was kind enough to do. The blue galaxy on the right just got its ass Bill Goldberg speared right in its goddamn gut. Notice the shock wave that blows out of its center, followed by the loose stars being sucked away. It makes the whole thing look like a space jellyfish.
Oh, but don't think this is as awesome as it gets, because ...
BAM! Oh, man, suck it! You just got galaxy slapped!
That looks like two galaxies right at the exact point of impact, doesn't it? But actually that entire structure on the right is a single entity called the Cartwheel Galaxy. About 200 million years ago (from our perspective), another galaxy collided head-on with it, sending out that blue shock wave of stars and dust. Since then, the ball-busting gravity at the center has steadily been trying to put things back together again, and if you look closely, you can see the strings of material trying to reform its spiral structure.
This is SNR B0509-67.5. OK, Science, seriously, fuck you for not giving that a badass name. It's a gigantic red bubble floating through space like a video game power-up. You know as well as I do that if we fly a ship through that, we're getting a scattershot upgrade out of the deal.
If you've been paying attention to the explanations so far, you know that's the remnants of a supernova. What's crazy is that this one is 23 light-years across and expanding at 11 million miles per hour. So sorry, guys. If we flew up to that thing and tried to pop it, it would bitch slap our asses inside out.
It doesn't look like much, does it? Just a boring collection of dots and smudges like the ones you've seen in every science book you've ever picked up. But there's a reason why this one is special, and if you don't have a bandwidth cap with your Internet provider, it would help you understand the magnitude and importance if you got the original 110 MB file.
See, back in 2004, scientists decided to point Hubble at a patch of sky that was pure black. No stars. No galaxies. Just black. They left the lens open for a little over 11 days to capture as much light as possible, because the more light a telescope captures, the clearer the image is. What we got was that image above ... only 6,200 pixels wide and just as tall. In other words ...
All of that, extracted from a pinpoint patch of empty, black sky. Every dot in that photo is a galaxy. Ten thousand of them. Every one of them previously unknown to us. Every one of them containing the possibility of having intelligent life for us to show up and dance battle before giving them the finger and flying away, knowing we truly are the masters of this universe.
John has a Twitter where he occasionally starts cults, just to see who would go through with the stupid haircut.