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Hester and her team studied the tail of IC 3418, which formed in a very different way. IC 3418 is mingling not with one galaxy, but with the entire Virgo cluster of galaxies 54 million light-years away from Earth. This massive cluster, which contains about 1,500 galaxies and is permeated by hot gas, is pulling in IC 3418, causing it to plunge through the cluster's gas at a rate of 1,000 kilometers per second, or more than 2 million miles per hour. At this incredible speed, the little galaxy's gas is being shoved back into a choppy tail.
"IC 3418's tail of star-formation demonstrates that strong turbulence promotes cloud formation". "These tails are unique, exotic locations where we can probe the precise mechanisms behind star formation," said Hester. "Understanding star formation is pivotal to understanding the lifecycles of galaxies and the dramatic transformations that some galaxies undergo. We can also study how the process affects the development of planets like our own."