Hubble Space Telescope has been enjoying spectacular views for nearly 28 years. Currently, it has caught a beautiful shot of a galactic collision.
NASA’s and ESA’s legendary telescope rotates in low Earth orbit. This beautiful piece of technology has vastly increased our knowledge about space. We have learned more about our origin, how stars born and die and lots of other events around the universe.
So, the telescope currently caught a glimpse of a stunning galactic collision. The image shows the barred spiral galaxy duo, ARP 256 system, slowly combining in Cetus the Sea Monster. This event occurred about 350 million light-years from Earth.
According to an ESA blog post, the galaxy pictured on top has unusually long tidal tails, “long, extended ribbons of gas, dust and stars.” The vibrantly blue regions are “stellar nurseries” which are still in the process of generating new stars.
A surge in interstellar dust and gas motion triggered by the strong gravitational interactions causes the uptick in star formation.
So, the two galaxies are in a process of merging, which will take millions of years.
However, the space agencies first released this image in 2008. But the image seen above is an improved version. They used its Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).
The agency wrote:
Arp 256 was first cataloged by Halton Arp in 1966, as one of 338 galaxies presented in the aptly-named Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies. The goal of the catalog was to image examples of the weird and wonderful structures found among nearby galaxies, to provide snapshots of different stages of galactic evolution. These peculiar galaxies are like a natural experiment played out on a cosmic scale and by cataloging them, astronomers can better understand the physical processes that warp spiral and elliptical galaxies into new shapes.
Such mergers are common at this stage of our universe’s evolution. Our galaxy is also on a collision course with our galactic neighbor, Andromeda.
Thumbnail image: Arp 256 is a stunning system of two spiral galaxies, about 350 million light-years away, in an early stage of merging. The image is taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. It displays two galaxies with strongly distorted shapes and an astonishing number of blue knots of star formation. Credit: NASA/ESA