Colliding galaxies make love, not war

October 17, 2006
Colliding Galaxies Make Love, Not War
This Hubble image of the Antennae galaxies is the sharpest yet of this merging pair of galaxies. As the two galaxies smash together, billions of stars are born, mostly in groups and clusters of stars. The brightest and most compact of these are called super star clusters. Credit: Credit: NASA, ESA, and B. Whitmore (Space Telescope Science Institute). Acknowledgement: James Long (ESA/Hubble).

A new Hubble image of the Antennae galaxies is the sharpest yet of this merging pair of galaxies. As the two galaxies smash together, billions of stars are born, mostly in groups and clusters of stars. The brightest and most compact of these are called super star clusters.

The Universe is an all-action arena for some of the largest, most slowly evolving dramas known to mankind. A new picture taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), onboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the "best ever" view of the Antennae galaxies - seemingly a violent clash between a pair of once isolated galaxies, but in reality a fertile marriage. As the two galaxies interact, billions of stars are born, mostly in groups and clusters of stars. The brightest and most compact of these are called super star clusters.

The two spiral galaxies started to fuse together about 500 million years ago making the Antenna galaxies the nearest and youngest example of a pair of colliding galaxies. Nearly half of the faint objects in the Antennae are young clusters containing tens of thousands of stars. The orange blobs to the left and right of image centre are the two cores of the original galaxies and consist mainly of old stars criss-crossed by filaments of dark brown dust. The two galaxies are dotted with brilliant blue star-forming regions surrounded by pink hydrogen gas.

The image allows astronomers to better distinguish between the stars and super star clusters created in the collision of two spiral galaxies. The observations show that only about 10% of the newly formed super star clusters in the Antennae will live to see their ten millionth birthday. The vast majority of the super star clusters formed during this interaction will disperse, with the individual stars becoming part of the smooth background of the galaxy. It is however believed that about a hundred of the most massive clusters will survive to form regular globular clusters, similar to the globular clusters found in our own Milky Way galaxy.

The Antennae galaxies take their name from the long antenna-like "arms" extending far out from the nuclei of the two galaxies, best seen by ground-based telescopes. These "tidal tails" were formed during the initial encounter of the galaxies some 500 million years ago. The give us a preview of what may happen when our Milky Way galaxy likely collides with the neighbouring Andromeda Galaxy about 6 billion years from now.

Source: ESA/Hubble Information Centre

Explore further: Astronomers discover one of the brightest galaxies known

Related Stories

Astronomers discover one of the brightest galaxies known

July 14, 2017

Thanks to an amplified image produced by a gravitational lens, and the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS a team of scientists from the Polytechnic University of Cartagena and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias have discovered ...

Chandra peers into a nurturing cloud

July 13, 2017

In the context of space, the term 'cloud' can mean something rather different from the fluffy white collections of water in the sky or a way to store data or process information. Giant molecular clouds are vast cosmic objects, ...

The first galaxies were even more violent than expected

June 30, 2017

An international team of researchers has shown that the hot diffuse gas that fills the space between the galaxies has the same concentration of iron in all galaxy clusters that were studied in sufficient detail by the Japanese ...

Milky Way could be home to 100 billion 'failed stars'

July 5, 2017

Our galaxy could have 100 billion brown dwarfs or more, according to work by an international team of astronomers, led by Koraljka Muzic from the University of Lisbon and Aleks Scholz from the University of St Andrews. On ...

Recommended for you

Hubble sees martian moon orbiting the Red Planet

July 20, 2017

The sharp eye of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured the tiny moon Phobos during its orbital trek around Mars. Because the moon is so small, it appears star-like in the Hubble pictures.

Spiral arms allow school children to weigh black holes

July 20, 2017

Astronomers from Swinburne University of Technology, Australia, and the University of Minnesota Duluth, USA, have provided a way for armchair astronomers, and even primary school children, to merely look at a spiral galaxy ...

Rovers drive through Tenerife darkness

July 20, 2017

A pair of ESA rovers trundled around a moon-like area of Tenerife by both day and night during a nine-day test campaign, gathering terabytes of data for follow-up analysis.

0 comments

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.