NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope Captures Stunning Perspective of Galactic Collision

Thursday, 16 May 2019 - 4:36PM
ESA
Space Imagery
Astronomy
Thursday, 16 May 2019 - 4:36PM
NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope Captures Stunning Perspective of Galactic Collision
< >
Image credit: ESA, NASA
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has taken a new look at an old subject, and the results are absolutely breathtaking.


Located in the Canes Venatici constellation – the Hunting Dogs, just below the Big Dipper in the night sky – the twin galaxies NGC 4485 and its larger companion, NGC 4490, have been locked together and slowly tearing each other apart over millions of years.


NGC 4485 and NGC 4490 used to be spiral galaxies, faint traces of which can still be seen in the image above. Although most of the damage has already been done and the galaxies are limping away from their closest approach, their respective gravitational fields continue to warp each other beyond recognition.


This won them an entry into the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies – yes, it's a thing – which catalogues various phenomena in galactic formations that falls outside the norm of spiral or elliptical galaxies. There are 338 entries in the Atlas so far, which may force astronomers to eventually adjust their opinions on what a "normal" galaxy looks like. (We're sure there's a metaphor in there for the human condition.)


Still connecting the two galaxies is a brilliant region of star formation approximately 25,000 light-years long. (Sometimes it's hard to cut ties with an ex.) The elements and forces present in this stream of matter connecting the galaxies give rise to massive, bright blue stars that quickly form and just as quickly burn themselves out, exploding into a fireball of heavy elements that give rise to new stars – and so the violent cosmic cycle continues. You can see this swath of birth and destruction in the right-hand part of the photo: dozens of bright blue stars punctuated by purple- and pinkish-red whorls of dust and gas.


NASA had previously captured photographs of these galaxies in 2014, but the Wide Field Camera 3 on Hubble (which captured now-famous images of the Carina Nebula) uses two additional filters to analyze the light it receives, providing new data and deeper insights into this striking and chaotic phenomenon.


Cover Image credit: ESA, NASA
Science
NASA
ESA
Space Imagery
Astronomy
No