A galactic dance

Related Articles

Related Articles

“Everything is determined by forces over which we have no control… Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.” — Albert Einstein

Galaxies lead a graceful existence on cosmic timescales. Over millions of years, they can engage in elaborate dances that produce some of Nature’s most exquisite and striking grand designs. Few are as captivating as the galactic duo known as NGC 5394/5, sometimes nicknamed the Heron Galaxy. This image, obtained by the Gemini Observatory of NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory, captures a snapshot of this compelling interacting pair.

The existence of our Universe is dependent upon interactions — from the tiniest subatomic particles to the largest clusters of galaxies. At galactic scales, interactions can take millions of years to unfold, a process seen in this image of two galaxies released today by the Gemini Observatory. The new image captures the slow and intimate dance of a pair of galaxies some 160 million light-years distant and reveals the sparkle of subsequent star formation fueled by the pair’s interactions.

 

The two galaxies, astronomers have concluded, have already “collided” at least once. However, galactic collisions can be a lengthy process of successive gravitational encounters, which over time can morph the galaxies into exotic, yet unrecognizable forms. These galaxies, as in all galactic collisions, are engaged in a ghostly dance as the distances between the stars in each galaxy preclude actual stellar collisions and their overall shapes are deformed only by each galaxy’s gravity.

One byproduct of the turbulence caused by the interaction is the coalescence of hydrogen gas into regions of star formation. In this image, these stellar nurseries are revealed in the form of the reddish clumps scattered in a ring-like fashion in the larger galaxy (and a few in the smaller galaxy). Also visible is a dusty ring that is seen in silhouette against the backdrop of the larger galaxy. A similar ring structure is seen in this previous image from the Gemini Observatory, likely the result of another interacting galactic pair.

A well-known target for amateur astronomers, the light from NGC 5394/5 first piqued humanity’s interest when it was observed by William Herschel in 1787. Herschel used his giant 20-foot-long telescope to discover the two galaxies in the same year that he discovered two moons of Uranus. Many stargazers today imagine the two galaxies as a Heron. In this interpretation, the larger galaxy is the bird’s body and the smaller one is its head — with its beak preying upon a fish-like background galaxy!

NGC 5394 [1] and NGC 5395, also known collectively known as Arp 84 or the Heron Galaxy, are interacting spiral galaxies 160 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Canes Venatici. The larger galaxy, NGC 5395 (on the left), is 140,000 light-years across and the smaller one, NGC 5394, is 90,000 light-years across.

ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITIES FOR RESEARCH IN ASTRONOMY (AURA)

Header Image Credit – NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory/Gemini Observatory/AURA.

 

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

LATEST NEWS

Some Dinosaurs Could Fly Before They Were Birds

New research using the most comprehensive study of feathered dinosaurs and early birds has revised the evolutionary relationships of dinosaurs at the origin of birds.

Searching the Ancient Depths of a Reptilian Genome Yields Insight into all Vertebrates

Scientists searching the most ancient corners of the genome of a reptile native to New Zealand found patterns that help explain how the genomes of all vertebrates took shape, according to a recently published study.

Researchers Unlock Secrets of the Past With New International Carbon Dating Standard

Radiocarbon dating is set to become more accurate than ever after an international team of scientists improved the technique for assessing the age of historical objects.

New Findings Dispel the View That Australia’s First Peoples Were ‘Only Hunter Gatherers’

Archaeologists at The Australian National University (ANU) have found the earliest evidence of Indigenous communities cultivating bananas in Australia.

Bones Recently Found on the Isle of Wight Belong to a New Species of Theropod Dinosaur

A new study by Palaeontologists at the University of Southampton suggests four bones recently found on the Isle of Wight belong to new species of theropod dinosaur, the group that includes Tyrannosaurus rex and modern-day birds.

Cremation in the Middle-East Dates as Far Back as 7,000 B.C.

The gender of the human remains found inside a cremation pyre pit in Beisamoun, Israel remains unknown. What is known is that the individual was a young adult injured by a flint projectile several months prior to their death in spring some 9,000 years ago.

Academics Develop New Method to Determine the Origin of Stardust in Meteorites

Meteorites are critical to understanding the beginning of our solar system and how it has evolved over time.

Primate Voice Boxes are Evolving at a Rapid Pace

Scientists have discovered that the larynx, or voice box, of primates is significantly larger relative to body size, has greater variation, and is under faster rates of evolution than in other mammals.

Popular stories

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.

Did Corn Fuel Cahokia’s Rise?

A new study suggests that corn was the staple subsistence crop that allowed the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia to rise to prominence and flourish for nearly 300 years.

The Real Dracula?

“Dracula”, published in 1897 by the Irish Author Bram Stoker, introduced audiences to the infamous Count and his dark world of sired vampiric minions.