Cosmic drag creates a jellyfish galaxy. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), P. Jachym (Czech Academy of Sciences) et al.

The blue swirl at the top left of this image is spiral galaxy ESO 137-001, but you may be more intrigued by the huge jelly-fish-like tendrils of purple and orange that appear to be spewing out of it.


These strange streams of hydrogen and carbon dioxide gas are a result of a phenomenon known as ram-pressure stripping.

Space is not entirely empty, but rather full of a viscous fluid that pulls on galaxies as they travel through the cosmos.

The result is streams of gas being stripped from the galaxy and forming the purple and orange tails we see here.

What's even more intriguing is that stars are actually forming within these tails.

This image is a collaboration between three major observatories. The spiral galaxy and its surroundings were captured by the Hubble Space Telescope; the purple streams of hydrogen by the Very Large Telescope; the orange-red spots of carbon oxide by the Atacama Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array.

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Observatories: Hubble Space Telescope / Very Large Telescope / Atacama Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array.


Image credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), P. Jachym (Czech Academy of Sciences) et al.


Iain Todd BBC Sky at Night Magazine
Iain ToddScience journalist

Iain Todd is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Content Editor. He fell in love with the night sky when he caught his first glimpse of Orion, aged 10.