Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)
With arms entangled, this galaxy merger resembles the letters “g” or “j” or perhaps a sea horse with a long tail arching over its head.
Dive deep into IRAS 20351+2521 and you’ll see vast dust clouds, nebulae and knots of blue stars. These patches are hot new stars born within the last million years. When galaxies interact, gas and dust are pushed and pulled together. These clouds can collapse under their own gravity and new stars can form. Sometimes scientists call these galactic collision although no stars collide. Eventually the stars that make up the two interacting galaxies will settle in new orbits around a new galactic center.
The bright stars in the image are closer stars within our own Milky Way Galaxy. IRAS 20351 is found about 450 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation Vulpecula. Vulpecula is a curious small constellation near the dense star clouds of Sagittarius. The shape of Vulpecula is the imagination of Johannes Hevelius, who created the constellation in the late 17th century. He thought it represented a “fox with the goose.” Vulpecula is the Latin word for fox.