NASA Hubble Space Telescope Images (via Hubble Heritage)
Galaxies of the NGC 7771 group:
NGC 7771: the edge-on spiral near center
NGC 7769: face-on spiral to the right of center
ESO - eso0755a
The Tinker Bell Triplet
Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, an international team of astronomers has discovered a stunning rare case of a triple merger of galaxies. This system, which astronomers have dubbed ‘The Bird’ - although it also bears resemblance with a cosmic Tinker Bell - is composed of two massive spiral galaxies and a third irregular galaxy.
In this image, a 30-min VLT/NACO K-band exposure has been combined with archive HST/ACS B and I-band images to produce a three-colour image of the ‘Bird’ interacting galaxy system. The NACO image has allowed astronomers to not only see the two previously known galaxies, but to identify a third, clearly separate component, an irregular, yet fairly massive galaxy that seems to form stars at a frantic rate.
NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, better known as the Antennae galaxy, located over 70 million light years. The nuclei of both galaxies are joining to form a giant spiral galaxy. The object got its name from its two long stream of stars which resemble the antennae of insects.
A Messier Object is an astronomical object first described by the great French astronomer Charles Messier in 1771. An insatiable comet hunter, Messier began his catalog of objects that were neither stars nor comets as a way of accounting for them and subsequently avoiding them as he searched for comets. With the help of his assistant Pierre Méchain, the first edition of the Catalogue des Nébuleuses et des Amas d’Étoiles (Catalogue of Nebulae and Star Clusters) contained 45 objects, mostly nebulae, galaxies and star clusters. According to Messier, who was waiting for the return of Halley’s Comet:
What caused me to undertake the catalog was the nebula I discovered above the southern horn of Taurus on September 12, 1758, whilst observing the comet of that year. This nebula had such a resemblance to a comet in its form and brightness that I endeavored to find others, so that astronomers would no more confuse these same nebulae with comets just beginning to appear.
Messier’s final publication included 103 objects, but the catalog was added to as recently as 1966, almost 200 years after his original publication! Today the catalog contains 110 objects and many objects are still referred to by their Messier number.
All images in the public domain, courtesy NASA.
One of our favorite photos from 2011: Colliding galaxies form exclamation point in space! The collision provides a model for how the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies will merge billions of years from now.
Hubble Pinpoints Farthest Protocluster of Galaxies Ever Seen (by NASA Goddard Photo and Video)
A clash among members of a famous galaxy quintet reveals an assortment of stars across a wide color range, from young blue stars to aging red stars.
This portrait of Stephan’s Quintet, also known as Hickson Compact Group 92, was taken by the new Wide Field Camera 3. Stephan’s Quintet, as the name implies, is a group of five galaxies. The name, however, is a bit of a misnomer. Studies have shown that group member NGC 7320, at upper left, is actually a foreground galaxy about seven times closer to Earth than the rest of the group.
Image and caption: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team
The Perseus Cluster of Galaxies
Credit & Copyright: Jean-Charles Cuillandre (CFHT) & Giovanni Anselmi (Coelum Astronomia)
First galaxies were born much earlier than expected
The giant cluster of elliptical galaxies in the center of this image contains so much dark matter mass that its gravitational field bends light. This means that for distant galaxies in the background, the cluster acts as a magnifying glass, bending and concentrating the distant object’s light towards Hubble. These gravitational lenses are one tool astronomers can use to extend Hubble’s vision beyond what it would normally be capable of seeing.
When Galaxies Collide
This interacting pair of galaxies is included in Arp’s catalog of peculiar galaxies as number 148. Arp 148 is the staggering aftermath of an encounter between two galaxies, resulting in a ring-shaped galaxy and a long-tailed companion.
The collision between the two parent galaxies produced a shockwave effect that first drew matter into the center and then caused it to propagate outwards in a ring. The elongated companion perpendicular to the ring suggests that Arp 148 is a unique snapshot of an ongoing collision.
Infrared observations reveal a strong obscuration region that appears as a dark dust lane across the nucleus in optical light. Arp 148 is nicknamed Mayall’s object and is located in the constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear, approximately 500 million light-years away.
The Firecracker (or Fireworks) Galaxy
Copyright: Ted Wolfe