A new state-of-the-art camera in Chile has produced a stunning 100-megapixel image of two galaxies dramatically interacting with each other.
Here is the original 100 megapixel ultra high resolution version that you can zoom in on. You can also download it here for your own use.
The galaxies we see now are the result of mergers like this. Precisely how galaxies form is a mystery, but we do know that these vast seas of stars often interact and mingle to form something new and bigger. Such mergers also drive the birth of new stars.
Captured by the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) on NSF’s NOIRLab’s Victor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, the image shows two galaxies that exist a whopping 40 million light-years away. away. The barred spiral galaxy NGC 1512 (at the center of this article’s main image, above) and the much smaller NGC 1510 lie in the constellation Horologium. It can only be seen from the southern hemisphere.
The two galaxies have been colliding for the past 400 million years, a process that has created millions of stars.
Take a look at the faint tendrils of the larger galaxy swarming around the smaller galaxy. You can also see a bridge of stars linking the two galaxies, which is the evidence we have that they are indeed interacting with each other.
All of the galaxies in the disk, including the Milky Way, are thought to have formed through collisions and mergers. Like NGC 1512, the halos of galaxies have faint streams and shells of stars, left behind by merging satellite galaxies and scattered star clusters in their surroundings.
For example, the Milky Way is 13.5 billion years old and is believed to have merged with the Gaia-Enceladus-Sausage galaxy (no kidding!) about nine billion years ago. That’s only thought to be its largest collision event, though it’s possible there was another ancient collision with the Kraken galaxy.
The Gaia mission, a satellite launched in 2013 to map and characterize more than a billion stars in the Milky Way, has already revealed that our galaxy’s halo is littered with debris from some massive dwarf galaxies.
What will happen after NGC 1512 and NGC 1510? They will eventually merge into a larger galaxy, ultimately forming a new galaxy that will merge with others.
I wish you clear skies and wide eyes.