Hubble spots a very bright contortionist

June 17, 2013
Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

( —The contorted object captured by Hubble in this picture is IRAS 22491-1808, also known as the South America Galaxy. It is an ultra-luminous infrared galaxy (ULIRG) that emits a huge amount of light at infrared wavelengths. The reason for this intense infrared emission lies in an episode of strong star formation activity, which was set off by a collision between two interacting galaxies.

In this image, the twisted shape hides a number of features. In the central region, which is very complex and disturbed, scientists have been able to distinguish two nuclei, remains of the two different galaxies that are currently colliding to form a new one. IRAS 22491-1808 is among the most luminous of these types of galaxies, and is considered to be mid-way through its merging stage.

The center of this appealing object also shows several -forming knots which, as seen in the picture, actually outshine the nuclei in . To pick out the two merging nuclei in IRAS 22491-1808, scientists have had to observe it in , where they are more distinct.

Other traces of the galactic collision are the three very noticeable tails in the image—two linear and one circular. The tail extending towards the bottom of the image from the main body exhibits a red clump of star formation at its base.

Explore further: Twists and turns in interacting galaxies

Related Stories

Twists and turns in interacting galaxies

October 8, 2012

(—Almost thirty years ago the Infrared Astronomy Satellite, IRAS, discovered that the universe contained many fabulously luminous galaxies, some of them more than a thousand times brighter than our own galaxy, ...

Hubble sees cosmic "flying V" of merging galaxies

February 18, 2013

This large "flying V" is actually two distinct objects—a pair of interacting galaxies known as IC 2184. Both the galaxies are seen almost edge-on in the large, faint northern constellation of Camelopardalis (The Giraffe), ...

Hubble digs up galactic glow worm

March 25, 2013

( —This charming and bright galaxy, known as IRAS 23436+5257, was captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. It is located in the northern constellation of Cassiopeia, which is named after an arrogant, vain, ...

Hubble tells a tale of galactic collisions

May 13, 2013

( —When we look into the distant cosmos, the great majority of the objects we see are galaxies: immense gatherings of stars, planets, gas, dust, and dark matter, showing up in all kind of shapes. This Hubble picture ...

Image: Hubble sees a swirl of star formation

May 27, 2013

( —This beautiful, glittering swirl is named, rather un-poetically, J125013.50+073441.5. A glowing haze of material seems to engulf the galaxy, stretching out into space in different directions and forming a fuzzy ...

Modeling galaxy mergers

June 3, 2013

( —Astronomers think that many galaxies, including our own Milky Way, have undergone similar collisions during their lifetimes. Although galaxy collisions are important and common, what happens during these encounters ...

Recommended for you

A mission to a metal world—The Psyche mission

October 9, 2015

In their drive to set exploration goals for the future, NASA's Discovery Program put out the call for proposals for their thirteenth Discovery mission in February 2014. After reviewing the 27 initial proposals, a panel of ...

What are white holes?

October 9, 2015

Black holes are created when stars die catastrophically in a supernova. So what in the universe is a white hole?

Image: Pluto's blue sky

October 9, 2015

Pluto's haze layer shows its blue color in this picture taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturn's moon ...

Blue skies, frozen water detected on Pluto

October 8, 2015

Pluto has blue skies and patches of frozen water, according to the latest data out Thursday from NASA's unmanned New Horizons probe, which made a historic flyby of the dwarf planet in July.

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.