Galaxy Murder Mystery: What Is Strangulation And How Does It Matter?

Researchers explain the science behind the galaxy murder mystery -- a phenomena in which an entire galaxy in the universe is killed off very fast. A new study reveals that galaxies are sent to early death due to ram-pressure striping, in which the galaxy is deprived of the gas. What's more? This process happens in a widespread scale in the universe.

The researchers compared the ram-pressure striping to another process which kills off galaxies. It's called strangulation. In strangulation, the gas in the universe is consumed faster than it is replenished and the galaxy later starves to death. Aside from the galaxy murder mystery, they also confirmed that galaxies in denser environments tend to have lower gas supplies.

This gas is lifeblood of the galaxies. Without it, the galaxies won't be able to make new stars which leads to premature death. Ram-pressure striping causes a galaxy to die in about 10 million years which is very fast in astronomical timeline.

In a study from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, astronomers studied 11,000 galaxies to explain the galaxy murder mystery. The researchers used the spectral stacking technique to study the effect of environment on the gas content of neighboring galaxies. They found out that the sudden and violent starvation of gas in a cluster of environments kills galaxies fast. They added that this process happens in a widespread scale throughout the local Universe.

"You can think of it like a giant cosmic broom that comes through and physically sweeps the gas from the galaxies," Toby Brown, leader of the cited Nanowerk. He added that this dictates the life of a galaxy because its existing stars will cool off and grow old. "If you remove the fuel for star formation then you effectively kill the galaxy and turn it into a dead object," he said.

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