Within the boundary of the constellation Coma Berenices (Berenice’s Hair) lies the impressive Coma Cluster. It’s a group of over a thousand galaxies bound together by gravity. Many of these galaxies are elliptical. The brighter of the two galaxies that stand out in this image is NGC 4860, an example of an elliptical galaxy. The other bright galaxy in the picture is NGC 4858 can be seen to the left of its brighter neighbor and stands out because of of its unusual, tangled, fiery appearance. NGC 4858 isn’t a simple spiral; it’s something called a “galaxy aggregate.” As the name suggests, it’s made up of a central galaxy surrounded by a handful of luminous knots of material that seem to stem from it, altering its overall structure. NGC 4858 is experiencing an extremely high rate of star formation, making new stars so frantically that it will use up all of its gas long before it reaches the end of its life. The red color of its bright knots indicates that they are formed of hydrogen, which glows in various shades of bright red when it is energized by stellar radiation.
Image Credit: ESA / NASA