681 million light-years from Earth, something amazing has been imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope: not just one galaxy, but three galaxies and the massive tear that resulted from the collision. Three galaxies will become one, which is known as a triple merger.
These events are unique to us, but are actually more common than they appear throughout the universe. Even the Milky Way Galaxy has undergone such violent collisions, and more are expected in the future. Studying such events gives us the knowledge to understand how massive galaxies grow and evolve over millions and billions of years, our origins, as well as the evolution of the universe itself.
The image, called IC 2431, shows what appears to be a triple collision taking place 681 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Cancer. A turbulent combination of star formation and tidal distortions caused by the gravitational interactions of this galactic trio can be seen. The center of the image is obscured by a dense dust cloud, although light from the background galaxy can be seen streaming through its outer edges.
According to NASAThis image is one of a series of Hubble observations looking at weird and wonderful galaxies found by the Citizen Science Project at the Galaxy Zoo. The project called on more than 100,000 volunteers to classify images of 900,000 galaxies taken by the Hubble Telescope that had never been closely examined. Then, using Hubble's powerful Advanced Camera Survey (ACS), astronomers took a closer look at some of the more unusual galaxies the volunteers had identified. “The project accomplished what would have been years of work for a professional astronomer in just 175 days, and led to a steady stream of similar citizen science astronomy projects.”
As we mentioned before, our galaxy is not exempt from collisions and is on its way to a very exciting collision, as it will merge with the nearby Andromeda galaxy after about 4.5 billion years. This collision will completely change the view of the night sky, but as chaotic as it may seem, planetary systems (including our own) will likely end up unscathed. The gravitational effect of the collision can change the path of the stars, but the distance between them is too great for the stars to collide with each other. As galaxies collide, a vast sea of material condenses, which will serve as a cradle for new stars.
Hubble is a joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency. Since its launch in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has changed our fundamental understanding of the universe. Hubble's unique design, which allows astronauts to repair and upgrade it using advanced technology, has made it one of our most valuable observatories, bringing unprecedented new knowledge through observations of cosmic wonders.
To this day, Hubble continues to produce a dazzling variety of images that have amazed and inspired audiences, as is the case with this galactic trio, which gives us a lot to learn, in addition to its own special appearance. The more collisions are detected, the more accurate the model is that indicates the past and future evolution of the universe.
You can see the detailed picture in the website of European Space Agency Hubble.
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