Posts Tagged ‘galactic collision’

Sparkling Hook


As if waiting for cosmic fish, this hook-shaped galaxy sparkles in a deep image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Or perhaps you’ve turned your head and you see a galactic smile.

Explore the beautiful galaxy known as J082354.96+280621.6, or J082354.96 for short. Let us know what shapes or stories you see in the comments below.

J082354.96 is a starburst galaxy. These types of galaxies have high rates of star formation. As you explore the image, look for bright blue areas. These are new stars being born. J082354.96 is also warped meaning another galaxy has interacted with it millions of years in the past. As galaxies move near each other, gravity pushes and pulls the stars into unusual shapes. Gravity also pushes gas and dust together where it might collect, collapse and form a new star. You can see the cores and warped arms of the two interacting galaxies at the ends of the hook.

As you zoom across the image, look for faint galaxies far in the dark background. The two bright stars are actually stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy between Earth and J082354.96. The galaxy is found about 650 million light-years from Earth toward the northern constellation Lynx.

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Transforming Galactic Brush

Credit: ESA/NASA Hubble

Even in a wide open Universe, with huge empty expanses between stars, gravity still finds a way to bring galaxies close together as in this deformed galaxy known as Markarian 779.

Zoom into the warped shape of the galaxy in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. What stories or shapes do you see?

Markarian 779 is the galaxy at the top of this image. It’s deformed shape is likely due to a merger between two spiral galaxies. The merger left the galaxy without distinct spiral arms. Gravity has scattered stars into a hazy halo and flung stars into a long string of stars that astronomers call a tidal tail. The tilted galaxy in the lower part of the image has a more regular spiral structure. The bright star in the middle of that galaxy is a chance alignment with a much closer star in our own Milky Way Galaxy. And just to the left of the galaxy, look for another but more distant deformed spiral galaxy. There are dozens of far-off galaxies in this deep image of the Universe.

Markarian 779 is part of a database of more than 1500 galaxies named after B.E. Markarian. Markarian, an Armenian astronomer, surveyed the sky for bright objects with unusually strong ultraviolet radiation. Usually these galaxies are active because of recent galactic interaction, a burst of new star-forming activity or the presence of a supermassive black hole.

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“G” Whiz

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)

Moving along the alphabet, we find a lowercase letter “G” within the swirls of the interacting spiral galaxies of Arp 194. Previously, we explored this odd galaxy and noticed a pair of owl eyes staring out of this image from NASA‘s Hubble Space Telescope. Nearly everywhere we look in the universe we see galaxies. And even though galaxies are far apart, gravity pulls them together. Eventually they collide or interact.

Two spiral galaxies at the top of the image are merging into a single large galaxy. The gravity interactions have warped and mangled the spiral arms of the galaxies. A third galaxy can be seen to the right.

Follow the blue stream of stars down and we’ll find another spiral galaxy. Streams of gas and dust stretch more than 100,000 light years between the upper galaxies and the large spiral galaxy at the bottom. Super star clusters glow blue in the bridge of light. Dozens of young star clusters are grouped in the blue clumps. Hot and massive stars give the bridge its blue color. Gas and dust have been compressed and shaped like taffy by the galactic collisions. This compression gives rise to conditions that cause a burst of star formation. We can see that the bottom galaxy has blue clumps of new stars as well. Overall the cosmic bridge contains millions of stars.

Arp 194 is located about 600 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation Cepheus, the King.

Interacting “E”

NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)

Two interacting galaxies embrace each other to form a cursive letter “E” in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of VV 705.

Explore the image of the merging galaxies also known as Markarian 848. Two long, curved and distorted arms of gas and dust arc away from the galactic cores. The cores sit side-by-side, only 16,000 light-years apart. Follow the spiral arm of the top galaxy as it curves up and then merges with an arm of the lower galaxy. Mangled dust lanes snake around the orange-yellow cores. Red, yellow and orange star colors usually indicate older stars. Our Sun is a yellow star about halfway through its expected lifespan of 8 billion years. Hot, blue, new stars are scattered throughout the outer spiral arms. Galaxy collisions stretch and pull the graceful spiral arms into thin, twisted knots of gas and dust. This concentration of the very material that makes up stars gives birth to new stars. The dim spiral arm arching behind the galaxies, which is probably the stretched remains of the original spiral arm, is dominated with yellow stars. Dimly glowing in the background of this deep image of the universe is a myriad of background galaxies.

Astronomers believe the galaxies that make up VV 705 are only halfway through their merger. The two spiral galaxies still have millions of years before they form a single, larger galaxy. VV 705 is located about 550 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation Bootes, the Bear Watcher.


Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Aloisi (STScI/ESA), and The Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

To me, this image from NASA‘s Hubble Space Telescope looks like a lumbering, long-necked Brontosaurus. Maybe a turtle with a long tail. What do you see in this image?

Dwarf galaxy NGC 4449 is home to a massive star-formation explosion. Scientists call this intense period of star-making a starburst. Astronomers believe the increase was likely triggered by a close interaction or merger with a smaller companion.

Explore the image from the tip of the head at the left to the tail on the right. Hundreds of thousands of red and blue stars blaze this galaxy. Huge bluish-white clusters of massive stars are seen scattered throughout. Reddish clouds of interstellar gas and dust show regions of current star formation. The stars are redder here because the dust clouds between us are thick. Thicker dust clouds are silhouetted against the galactic starlight.

NGC 4449 is part of a group of galaxies in the small, northern constellation Canes Venatici that is only 12.5 million light years from Earth; right in the neighborhood of the Milky Way. Canes Venatici was created by Johnannes Hevelius in the 17th century. The name is Latin for hunting dogs, representing the mythological dogs Chara and Asterion being held by the neighboring constellation Boötes, the Herdsman.


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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