Large galaxies like our Milky Way are formed when smaller star clusters collide. Researchers can now track this phenomenon in nearly real time – in our cosmic neighborhood.
More than 30 years after its launch, the Hubble Space Telescope continues to surprise us with new discoveries. In a 2010 photo, NASA astronomers made a startling discovery: the collision of four dwarf galaxies, which came together to form one large galaxy.
“Typically such collisions occur billions of light-years away and billions of years away,” NASA said in a statement. “But these galaxies are relatively close to us, only 166 million light-years away.” The Hubble image shows the four dwarf galaxies in “Hickson Compact Group 31” as they appeared 166 million light-years ago – a short time in cosmological terms.
“Some regions are overflowing with star births.”
In the Hubble image, a large group of bright stars can be seen to the left of the image – according to NASA, these are two of the four dwarf galaxies. The third is the object stretched over the star cluster, and the fourth can be seen in the lower right of the image. The glowing object in the center of the image is a star located between Earth and Hickson Compact Group 31, but it is not part of the group of galaxies. Intergalactic runs are bright bands that researchers have identified as stellar streams – streams of celestial bodies that travel from one galaxy to another after a collision.
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