Residents of the Fornax galaxy cluster populate this 4-meter Victor M. Blanco Telescope image, located in Chile at the Turó Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), a NSF NOIRLab program. The irregular galaxy lurking in the lower left corner of this dark energy study image is NGC 1427A, and its sinking into the heart of the Fornax Cluster for millions of years will eventually alter the galaxy.
The Fornax Cluster, which, as its name suggests, is located mainly in the constellation Fornax (the Oven), is a relatively close group of galaxies, only about 60 million light-years from Earth. This means that it is seen large in the night sky, extending over an area more than 100 times larger than that of a full moon. With more than 600 member galaxies, the Fornax Cluster is the second “richest” (most populated) galaxy cluster within 100 million light-years of our galaxy (after the much larger Virgin Cluster).
Two elliptical galaxies dominate the center of this image; they appear as two large points of scattered light with bright nuclei. These galaxies usually contain much older stars than the picturesque spiral galaxies and tend to be found in clusters of galaxies such as the Fornax Cluster. These elliptical galaxies, called NGC 1399 and NGC 1404, are among the brightest members of the Fornax Cluster and are held together by the force of gravity. This reaction removes the gas from the lower elliptical galaxy NGC 1404 in this image.
In the lower left corner of the image is the irregular galaxy NGC 1427A. This torn patch of light is a small, irregular group of stars similar to the Large Magellanic Cloud. Like NGC 1404, NGC 1427A is heading toward the core of the cluster at a speed of 2.2 million kilometers (or 1.3 million miles) per hour. This intense race toward destruction will eventually cause the galaxy to crash, its disintegration by gravitational interactions with other galaxies.
As with most astronomical observations, this image shows not only the intended target, but also a group of objects near home already enormous distances. The image is dotted with overlapping objects from inside our galaxy, the Milky Way: bright stars with diffraction peaks. . At the other end, distant galaxies provide a colorful background for this image: some are recognizable as spiral galaxies, while others are just spots. Although it looks small in this image, each distant galaxy contains billions of stars.
This image was captured by the 570MP Dark Energy Camera (Decam), one of the world’s best-performing wide-field cameras, as part of the Dark Energy Survey. Funded by the US Department of Energy. UU. (DOE) and built and tested at the Department of Energy’s Fermilab, Decam was operated by DOE and the National Science Foundation (NSF) between 2013 and 2019. Among its many successes, Decam’s observations have helped astronomers to discover nearly 300 previously unknown dwarf galaxies in the Fornax Cluster.
Decam is currently used for programs that cover a wide range of sciences. Like other topographic instruments, Decam captures images of large strips of the night sky, allowing astronomers to understand the structures of the universe on a large scale. Telescopic surveys also help to identify interesting astronomical objects that are worth following and observing; The most powerful telescopes can study only one part of the night sky at a time, so astronomers often use surveys to find things interesting enough to observe them in detail.
Dark Energy Survey data analysis is supported by the Department of Energy and the NSF, and the Decam Scientific Archive is coordinated by the Community and Data Science Center (CSDC) at NSF’s NOIRLab.