Thursday, September 29, 2022

Hubble captures mesmerizing details of two galaxies on a collision course

About 100 million light-years away, two galaxies are giving astronomers a brief preview of the Milky Way’s fate.

So close that they are classified under the same name, Arp 91, the spiral galaxies NGC 5953 and NGC 5954 are in the process of merging, with material extending to the latter and to the east. Details of this merger are visible in a new image from the Hubble Space Telescope.

According to our model of these massive cosmic interactions, gradually, the two galaxies will join together, forming one large elliptical galaxy. Similarly we expect the Milky Way to die out when it eventually merges with our own nearest galactic neighbor, the spiral galaxy Andromeda.

Arp 91. (ESA / Hubble and NASA, J. Dalkenton; Acknowledgment: J. Schmidt)

Indeed, galactic mergers are not uncommon in the universe. Space is big, and you might think that things wouldn’t collide with other things very often, but galaxies don’t float in a sea of ​​void. They are often associated with giant filaments of intergalactic gas, which can act as matter highways along which galaxies are pulled together in the void.

We have observed many such galactic collisions, but they occur on time scales of about a billion years, so any single collision in isolation will not reveal the entirety of the process. However, every single process is a snapshot of a moment; By studying the collisions collectively, we can piece together a sequence of events, as seen in the 2016 simulation below.

Arp 91 is at a stage where the two galaxies have not yet been significantly disrupted; Their spiral structures are still largely intact. However, their interaction has triggered an explosion of star formation in both galaxies, as the inflowing gas causes shockwaves in clouds of molecular star-forming gas, pushing it into denser clusters that form on their own to form infant stars. collapse under the mass of

In addition, both galaxies have active galactic nuclei; That is, the supermassive black holes at their centers are actively devouring material. This process generates powerful black hole winds that push in the surrounding gas, which – you guessed it – generates shocks that trigger star formation. So both galaxies are very busy places indeed.

Eventually, the two will merge, their spiral structures merging into a bright, almost featureless type of galaxy, known as an elliptical galaxy. However, it is at least a few hundred million years away. Whether humanity will be around to see this is an open question.

The merger between the Milky Way and Andromeda goes even further. Scientists estimate that this will begin to happen some 4.5 billion years from now. However, we have little to worry about; By that time, humanity will almost certainly be dead, gone, or unrecognizable.

But isn’t it nice to know what will happen to the place after we leave?

You can download Hubble’s ARP 91 image from the ESA Hubble website in full resolution or wallpaper versions.


Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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