This composite image from the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and its Wide Field Camera 3 shows a huge cluster of galaxies some six billion light years away known as PSZ23 G138.61-10.84. The image is from an observing programme called the Reionization Lensing Cluster Survey, or RELICS. The RELICS project has studied 41 galaxy clusters to help locate the brightest distant galaxies for follow-on observations by the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2020.
Observations of “Jellyfish galaxies” with ESO’s Very Large Telescope have revealed a previously unknown way to fuel supermassive black holes. It seems the mechanism that produces the tentacles of gas and newborn stars that give these galaxies their nickname also makes it possible for the gas to reach the central regions of the galaxies, feeding the black hole that lurks in each of them and causing it to shine brilliantly.
As seen from Earth, galaxies can appear in any number of orientations, from face on, with spiral arms on glorious display, to edge on, with the arms hidden from view behind a flattened plane of stars and dust. While not as spectacular, perhaps, edge-on views provide key insights into galactic structure.
Scientists planning the the next phase of NASA’s New Horizons mission, a robotic craft that completed the first exploration of Pluto in 2015, are going into the flyby of a frozen, faraway city-sized clump of rock on New Year’s Day 2019 armed with little knowledge of the target lurking around 4 billion miles from Earth.