It’s hard to imagine that, deep in space, entire galaxies would collide. Galactic collisions can be places of not only destruction but also creation, as these two interacting galaxies can form regions of intense star formation when they merge. The slow process of mergers can last for millions of years, meaning astronomers can spot these mergers as they happen.
NOIRLab’s Gemini North telescope in Hawaii captured one such merger, showing the dramatic process of collision and merger between two galaxies, NGC 4568 and NGC 4567. The two are currently only 20,000 light-years apart and are poised to enter the disruptive phase of their merger.
These two galaxies are located 60 million light-years away, towards the constellation Virgo, and are both spiral galaxies like our Milky Way. However, as they get closer, the enormous gravity involved in the merger will begin to distort their shapes, stretching parts while triggering bursts of star formation in certain pockets. NOIRLab wrote: “As NGC 4568 and NGC 4567 come together, their gravitational pull will trigger intense bursts of star formation and greatly distort their once majestic structures.” “For millions of years, the galaxies have Will swing back and forth in tighter and tighter loops, pulling out long streams of stars and gas, until their respective structures are so thoroughly mixed that a single, largely spherical galaxy emerges from chaos. Most of the gas and dust (the fuel for star formation) in this system will be used up or blown away.” Just to add to the existential horror aspect of this image, NOIRLab also notes that it’s similar to a nearby fairy What will eventually happen to the Milky Way when the constellation galaxy collides with our parent galaxy in about 4 billion years. Editor’s Choice
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