Hubble has captured a haunting image of a galaxy being torn apart. The image shows the galaxy ESO 137-001 being eviscerated as it passes through a galaxy cluster.

ESO 137-001 is a spiral galaxy located around 200 million light years away. The galaxy in question can be found within the constellation known as the Southern Triangle or Triangulum Australe. The image that Hubble was able to capture shows the galaxy in a stunning cosmic background while it leaks galactic material in bright blue steaks of ultraviolet light. The image ESO 137-001 was captured by Hubble as the galaxy is moving across a galaxy cluster named Abell 3627.

"These streaks are actually hot young stars, encased in wispy streams of gas that are being torn away from the galaxy by its surroundings as it moves through space," said the European Space Agency (ESA) on Hubble's official site. "This violent galactic disrobing is due to a process known as ram pressure stripping - a drag force felt by an object moving through a fluid."

Aside from the harrowing streaks of blue galactic guts, Hubble was also able to capture more details about the process. The image shows a curved disc of dust and gas, which is caused by the forces exerted by hot gas. Moreover, Abell 3627's drag force may also be causing the galaxy to bend as the gravitational might of two astronomically large bodies clash amidst the cosmic backdrop.

"As with most images from Hubble, this is not just a pretty picture; it tells us a great deal about the harsh environment at the heart of a galaxy cluster, and the fate of galaxies like ESO 137-001 that find passage through it," said the ESA.

While the image may bring to light the fact that even galaxies can fall prey to cataclysmic events, scientists have a lot to learn by observing the interaction between galaxy and cluster. By observing the ram pressure stripping visible in the Hubble image, scientists will be able to learn more about the evolution of galaxies through time. Astronomers predict that the incident will cause a significant drain on ESO 137-001's cold gas reserves. Since this type of gas is essential for the formation of stars, the evisceration may very well leave the galaxy incapable of producing new stars.

"Despite being relatively close by cosmic standards, catching even a glimpse of the Norma Cluster is no mean feat," the ESA said. "Observed from Earth, the cluster lies close to the plane of the Milky Way and is obscured by a thick smog of cosmic dust."

While nearing the end of its lifespan, Hubble is continuing to provide astronomers with a wealth of information about the universe. However, NASA is also busy building a next generation space telescope, which is expected to be 100 times more powerful than Hubble.

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