One from many

This image, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows a peculiar galaxy known as NGC 1487, lying about 30 million light-years away in the southern constellation of Eridanus.

Rather than viewing a celestial object, it is actually better to think of this as an event. Here, we are witnessing two or more galaxies in the act of merging together to form a single new galaxy. Each progenitor has lost almost all traces of its original appearance, as stars and gas have been thrown hither and thither by gravity in an elaborate cosmic whirl.

Unless one is very much bigger than the other, galaxies are always disrupted by the violence of the merging process. As a result, it is very difficult to determine precisely what the original galaxies looked like and, indeed, how many of them there were. In this case, it is possible that we are seeing the merger of several dwarf galaxies that were previously clumped together in a small group.

Although older yellow and red stars can be seen in the outer regions of the new galaxy, its appearance is dominated by large areas of bright blue stars, illuminating the patches of gas that gave them life. This burst of star formation may well have been triggered by the merger.

Credit:

ESA/Hubble & NASA
Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt (Geckzilla)

About the Image

Id:potw1605a
Type:Observation
Release date:1 February 2016, 06:00
Size:1428 x 1170 px

About the Object

Name:NGC 1487
Type:Local Universe : Galaxy : Type : Irregular
Local Universe : Galaxy : Type : Interacting
Distance:30 million light years
Constellation:Eridanus
Category:Galaxies

Image Formats

Large JPEG
703.0 KB
Screensize JPEG
291.8 KB

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Wallpapers

1024x768
368.3 KB
1280x1024
602.7 KB
1600x1200
845.1 KB
1920x1200
952.2 KB
2048x1536
1.2 MB

Coordinates

Position (RA):3 55 44.38
Position (Dec):-42° 21' 45.69"
Field of view:2.38 x 1.95 arcminutes
Orientation:North is 35.3° right of vertical

Colours & filters

BandWavelengthTelescope
Optical
B
450 nm Hubble Space Telescope
WFPC2
Optical
V
606 nm Hubble Space Telescope
WFPC2
Infrared
I
814 nm Hubble Space Telescope
WFPC2

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