May 7, 2008

When two Galaxies Collide

Take a look at the image above. This recent image of NGC 3256 actually shows two galaxies that are slowly colliding. NGC 3256 is a part of the vast Hydra-Centaurus supercluster of galaxies, spans over 100 thousand light-years across and is located about 100 million light-years away.

Today, NGC 3256 shows intricate filaments of dark dust, unusual tidal tails of stars, and a peculiar center that contains two distinct nuclei. Although it is likely that no stars in the two galaxies will directly collide, the gas, dust, and ambient magnetic fields do interact directly. So, in hundreds of millions of years, only one of them will remain.


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