Gravitational interactions in rich clusters can strip material from the outer parts of galaxies or even completely disrupt entire systems, giving rise to large scale, low surface brightness ghostly features stretching across intergalactic space. The nearby Coma and Centaurus clusters both have striking examples of galaxy ghosts, in the form of 100 kpc-long plumes of intergalactic debris. By searching HST archival images, we have found numerous other examples of galaxy ghosts in rich clusters at low redshift, evidence that galaxy destruction and recycling are ubiquitous, important in cluster formation and evolution, and continue to mold clusters at the present epoch. Many ghosts appear in X-ray bright clusters, perhaps signaling a connection with energetic subcluster mergers.
The fate of such material has important ramifications for cluster evolution. Our new HST WFPC2 V & I images of a portion of the Centaurus plume reveal that it contains an excess of discrete objects with −12 < M
< −6, consistent with being globular clusters or smaller dwarf galaxies. This tidally liberated material is being recycled directly into the intracluster population of stars, dwarf galaxies, globular clusters, and gas, which may have been built largely from a multitude of similar events over the life of the cluster.