Category: Numbers

Ones and Zeroes

NASA, ESA, and M. Livio (STScI)

10-hs-2008-37-a-full_tif_1500_300Our brains try to find order in the extraordinary images we see from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and create patterns in the night sky. In this image of Arp 147, we see what looks like a one and a zero, or a ten.

Explore the image and tell us what kinds of stories you see in this image. The left-most galaxy looks relatively untouched after blasting through the ring. It shows as just a smooth ring of starlight nearly edge-on to our line of sight here on Earth. But the galaxy to the right shows a bright, blue ring of new star formation. Astronomers think that the compact galaxy passed through the galaxy on the right. That disturbance, like a pebble being thrown in a quiet pond, not only has blown out the center of the ring galaxy but also has triggered the burst of new star formation. When the galaxy moved through, it compressed the gas at its edge, causing a wave that moves moves outward to the galaxy’s edge. As this density wave collided with calm gas and dust, the new stars formed.

When you look around the image, do you notice the reddish knot in the lower left part of the blue ring galaxy? This is probably the leftover nucleus of the galaxy that was hit.

Arp 147 lies about 400 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation Cetus the Whale. Halton Arp compiled his list of peculiar galaxies in the 1960s.

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The ancient peoples saw pictures in the sky. From those patterns in the heavens, ancient storytellers created legends about heroes, maidens, dragons, bears, centaurs, dogs and mythical creatures...
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