The Antennae moves closer

The Antennae Galaxies are among the closest known merging galaxies. The two galaxies, also known as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, started to interact a few hundred million years ago, creating one of the most impressive sights in the night sky. They are considered by scientists as the archetypal merging galaxy system and are used as a standard with which to validate theories about galaxy evolution.

The ground-based image (left) is taken by Robert Gendler and shows the two merging galaxies and their impressive long tidal tails.

The Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys image (right) shows a portion of the southern tidal tail. The main visible component consists of young blue stars recently formed out of the gas accumulating along the spine of the tail, and many red background galaxies can also be seen. The region is also filled by thousands of faint red stars, just visible when zooming on the image.

By measuring the colours and brightnesses of red giant stars in the system, the scientists found that the Antennae Galaxies are much closer than previously thought: 45 million light-years instead of the previous best estimate of 65 million light-years. These red stars cannot be brighter than a certain threshold, and it is this luminosity threshold that was used to derive the new distance of the Antennae.


NASA, ESA & Ivo Saviane (European Southern Observatory)/Robert Gendler

About the Image

Release date:9 May 2008, 12:00
Related releases:heic0812
Size:3000 x 1773 px

About the Object

Name:Antennae Galaxies, NGC 4038, NGC 4039
Type:Local Universe : Galaxy : Type : Interacting
Distance:45 million light years

Image Formats

Large JPEG
2.4 MB
Screensize JPEG
229.6 KB

Print Layout

Screensize JPEG
205.7 KB

Colours & filters

606 nm Hubble Space Telescope
Pseudogreen (V+I)
Hubble Space Telescope
814 nm Hubble Space Telescope

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