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miércoles, 10 de noviembre de 2010

New Sharp Image of Violent Galactic Collision

Two galaxies collide head-on in this new image from the European Southern Observatory.

The resulting maelstrom of stars is called the Atoms-for-Peace galaxy (more formally NGC 7252 or Arp 226) after a speech about nuclear power President Eisenhower gave in December 1953. But this tumultuous galactic merger is anything but peaceful. The pair of galaxies are tearing each other apart, sending swoops and streams of stars, gas and dust flying into nearby space.

This image also captures shells that formed as gas and stars were ripped from the colliding galaxies and wrapped around their joint core. Some of this material was compressed, sparking bursts of star formation.

Our own Milky Way galaxy is headed for a similar fate in the next 3 billion or 4 billion years. We’re on a collision course with the nearby Andromeda Galaxy.

Atoms-for-Peace lies about 220 million light-years away in the constellation Aquarius, and is bright enough to be seen through a backyard telescope, though it appears as a small fuzzy blob. This image was taken with ESO’s Wide Field Imager at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.

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