Hubble telescope delivers rare, glorious views of six galaxies colliding

Hubble telescope delivers rare, glorious views of six galaxies colliding

Let me tell you about the birds and the bees, and the galaxies. Sometimes, two galaxies get together with spectacular consequences, including a baby boom of stars. NASA and the European Space Agency’s Hubble Space Telescope has gifted us with six rare views of galaxy mergers, and every one of them is a winner.

ESA released the images to celebrate the start of 2021. “These systems are excellent laboratories to trace the formation of star clusters under extreme physical conditions,” the agency said in a statement on Thursday. Star clusters are exactly what they sound like: groups of stars.

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The galaxies all display signs of their wild pasts. ESA describes galaxy NGC 3256 as peculiar and distorted. NGC 3690 is a “supernova factory,” and the image of NGC 6052 shows two galaxies still in the process of colliding.

The Hubble imaging Probe of Extreme Environments and Clusters (HiPEEC) survey that delivered the images was focused on star clusters inside the galaxies and what happens to them when their host systems merge. The collisions feed into the formation of new stars, boosting the stellar birth rate.

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