Cannibal galaxy spotted in new photo of Fornax Cluster

Story highlights

  • A new photo of the Fornax Cluster reveals galaxies feeding on each other
  • Astronomers believe the cannibalization of galaxies is happening right before our eyes

(CNN)A spectacular new image featuring clusters of galaxies has emerged.

These galaxies are a part of the Fornax Cluster, which can be spotted in the Southern Hemisphere. It features celestial bodies of all shapes and sizes, with some hiding in the vast canvas of space.
    This new image, which was released on Wednesday, was captured by the VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile.
    Galaxy clusters may contain from 100 to 1,000 galaxies, ranging from 5 to 30 million light-years apart. Galaxies tend to gather in large groups because of their gravity. However, this physical force can do more than just bring heavenly bodies together.
    At the center of this cluster, in the middle of the three bright fuzzy blobs on the left side of the image, lies a cD galaxy -- known as a galactic cannibal because it has grown by swallowing smaller galaxies by exerting its gravitational force.
    A team of astronomers in Italy used ESO data to find a faint bridge of light between two galaxies lodged inside the Fornax Cluster, NGC 1399 and a smaller galaxy named NGC 1387. This light bridge, which has never been observed before, shows that stars are being drawn from the smaller galaxy toward the larger one, meaning NGC 1399 is feeding on NGC 1387, according to an ESO report.
    Astronomers believe this galaxy cannibalization is happening before our very eyes, but we can't see it without a high-powered telescope.
    Galaxy clusters can be massive and not neatly defined. However, astronomers estimate that the center of the Fornax Cluster is 65 million light-years from Earth.
    The Fornax Cluster isn't a unique phenomenon though. Galaxy clusters are plentiful in our universe, which simply shows how powerful and influential gravity can be over large distances.