Small galaxies yield clues about dark matter

These four dwarf galaxies are part of a census of small galaxies in the tumultuous heart of the nearby Perseus galaxy cluster.

The galaxies appear smooth and symmetrical, suggesting that they have not been tidally disrupted by the pull of gravity in the dense cluster environment. Larger galaxies around them, however, are being ripped apart by the gravitational tug of other galaxies.

The images, taken by NASA/ESA's Hubble Space Telescope, are evidence that the undisturbed galaxies are enshrouded by a "cushion" of dark matter, which protects them from their rough-and-tumble neighborhood.

Dark matter is an invisible form of matter that accounts for most of the Universe's mass. Astronomers have deduced the existence of dark matter by observing its gravitational influence on normal matter, consisting of stars, gas, and dust.

Observations by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys spotted 29 dwarf elliptical galaxies in the Perseus Cluster, located 250 million light-years away and one of the closest galaxy clusters to Earth. Of those galaxies, 17 are new discoveries.

The images were taken in 2005.


NASA, ESA and C. Conselice (University of Nottingham, U.K.)

About the Image

NASA press release
NASA caption
Release date:12 March 2009, 14:00
Related releases:heic0903
Size:1052 x 1054 px

About the Object

Name:Perseus Cluster
Type:Local Universe : Galaxy : Size : Dwarf
Local Universe : Galaxy : Grouping : Cluster
Distance:250 million light years

Image Formats

Large JPEG
517.6 KB
Screensize JPEG
326.2 KB

Print Layout

Screensize JPEG
151.3 KB

Colours & filters

Hubble Space Telescope

Notes: The left images were captured by WIYN, and the right two by the ACS instrument aboard the Hubble Space Telescope.

Also see our

Accelerated by CDN77