A galactic mega-merger

The subject of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is known as NGC 3597. It is the product of a collision between two good-sized galaxies, and is slowly evolving to become a giant elliptical galaxy. This type of galaxy has grown more and more common as the Universe has evolved, with initially small galaxies merging and progressively building up into larger galactic structures over time.

NGC 3597 is located approximately 150 million light-years away in the constellation of Crater (The Cup). Astronomers study NGC 3597 to learn more about how elliptical galaxies form — many ellipticals began their lives far earlier in the history of the Universe. Older ellipticals are nicknamed “red and dead” by astronomers because these bloated galaxies are not anymore producing new, bluer, stars in ages, and are thus packed full of old and redder stellar populations.

Before infirmity sets in, some freshly formed elliptical galaxies experience a final flush of youth, as is the case with NGC 3597. Galaxies smashing together pool their available gas and dust, triggering new rounds of star birth. Some of this material ends up in dense pockets initially called proto-globular clusters, dozens of which festoon NGC 3597. These pockets will go on to collapse and form fully-fledged globular clusters, large spheres that orbit the centres of galaxies like satellites, packed tightly full of millions of stars.

Credit:

ESA/Hubble & NASA
Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt

About the Image

Id:potw1602a
Type:Observation
Release date:11 January 2016, 06:00
Size:665 x 632 px

About the Object

Name:NGC 3597
Type:Local Universe : Galaxy : Type : Elliptical
Distance:150 million light years
Constellation:Crater
Category:Galaxies

Image Formats

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160.2 KB
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251.0 KB

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Coordinates

Position (RA):11 14 42.16
Position (Dec):-23° 43' 41.23"
Field of view:0.56 x 0.53 arcminutes
Orientation:North is 0.2° right of vertical

Colours & filters

BandWavelengthTelescope
Optical
B
450 nm Hubble Space Telescope
WFPC2
Optical
V
555 nm Hubble Space Telescope
WFPC2
Optical
V
606 nm Hubble Space Telescope
WFPC2
Optical
R
702 nm Hubble Space Telescope
WFPC2

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