Galaxies are delicate and dynamic things. Their interaction with their surroundings and where they reside in the universe have big effects on their ability to form stars and stay “alive”. No one knows exactly why galaxies survive or perish. But, something is killing galaxies in the outer reaches of the universe and a team of astronomers is on the case.
Galaxy clusters have large amounts of mass and gravity. Hundreds to thousands of galaxies in a cluster, moving at crazy speeds produce super-heated plasma between galaxies. The intense interaction between those galaxies can quench star formation in some of them. The scientific community understand some reasons why that star formation gets quenched. It’s a loss of star-making gases and extreme heat that doesn’t allow galaxies to form from cooling gases. But, the how is still a mystery.
A project called the Virgo Environment Traced in Carbon Monoxide survey (VERTICO) is made up of 30 experts who are investigating the ways in which the star formation of a galaxy is snuffed out. They’re studying the Virgo Cluster, which is considered an ideal target for solving the galaxy killer mystery. They are looking to “provide high resolution maps of molecular hydrogen gas — the raw fuel for star formation — for 51 galaxies” in the Virgo Cluster. By knowing the amount of fuel available, and the ways in which those amounts change and shift, they can start to see how that fuel gets manipulated as the galaxies in the cluster interact with their environment. – space.com
The galaxy killer is still on the loose. But, we are a little closer to understanding the methods to the murders.
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