And finally, 100 million-year-old galactic mystery solved by Hubble

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Images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of the Perseus cluster of stars have helped scientists to solve a 100 million-year-old mystery of how giant structures in deep space are prevented from disintegrating. The spectacular pictures show vast, thread-like "filaments" of gas which emerge from the centre of a galaxy known as NGC 1275, situated some 235 million light years away from Earth.

Astronomers have tried to explain how these beautiful structures can have survived for so long, given that the filaments reach out from their home galaxy into the Perseus cluster, which is a hostile, high-energy environment with a strong, tidal pull of gravity.

These combined forces should have ripped apart the filaments in a very short time, causing them to collapse into stars. Instead, they have withstood this immense destructive force for more than 100 million years, scientists said. Now, for the first time, images from Hubble have allowed researchers to observe the filamentary structure in detail. Using such data, they were able to demonstrate that the strong magnetic fields in the region give the filaments a skeletal structure which is enough to enable them to resist gravitational collapse.

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