Astronomy Picture of the Day
APOD: 2004 November 21 - Spiral Galaxies in Collision
Explanation: Billions of years from now, only one of these two galaxies will remain. Until then, spiral galaxies NGC 2207 and IC 2163 will slowly pull each other apart, creating tides of matter, sheets of shocked gas, lanes of dark dust, bursts of star formation, and streams of cast-away stars. Astronomers predict that NGC 2207, the larger galaxy on the left, will eventually incorporate IC 2163, the smaller galaxy on the right. In the most recent encounter that peaked 40 million years ago, the smaller galaxy is swinging around counter-clockwise, and is now slightly behind the larger galaxy. The space between stars is so vast that when galaxies collide, the stars in them usually do not collide.
APOD: 2004 June 12 - NGC 4676: When Mice Collide
Explanation: These two mighty galaxies are pulling each other apart. Known as "The Mice" because they have such long tails, each spiral galaxy has likely already passed through the other. They will probably collide again and again until they coalesce. The long tails are created by the relative difference between gravitational pulls on the near and far parts of each galaxy. Because the distances are so large, the cosmic interaction takes place in slow motion -- over hundreds of millions of years. NGC 4676 lies about 300 million light-years away toward the constellation of Coma Berenices and are likely members of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies. The above picture was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys which is more sensitive and images a larger field than previous Hubble cameras. The camera's increased sensitivity has imaged, serendipitously, galaxies far in the distance scattered about the frame.
APOD: 2005 April 4 - NGC 1316: After Galaxies Collide
Explanation: How did this strange-looking galaxy form? Astronomers turn detectives when trying to figure out the cause of unusual jumbles of stars, gas, and dust like NGC 1316. A preliminary inspection indicates that NGC 1316 is an enormous elliptical galaxy that includes dark dust lanes usually found in a spiral. The above image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows details, however, that help in reconstructing the history of this gigantic jumble. Close inspection finds fewer low mass globular clusters of stars toward NGC 1316's centre. Such an effect is expected in galaxies that have undergone collisions or merging with other galaxies in the past few billion years. After such collisions, many star clusters would be destroyed in the dense galactic centre. The dark knots and lanes of dust indicate that one or more of the devoured galaxies were spiral galaxies. NGC 1316 spans about 60,000 light years and lies about 75 million light years away toward the constellation of the Furnace.
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