Unexpected Hubble finding shows two-galaxy merger in a series of fascinating images captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
The merger is not only an unexpected finding, but also a surprising one for astronomers keeping an eye on the events taking place in the universe. Until recently, the galaxy known as NGC 6052 was thought to be one mega structure. Found 230 million light years away from our own Milky Way, NGC 6052 only recently emerged as two different structures colliding into one.
NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captured detailed images of the event. The process, documented by the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) of the Hubble Space Telescope took astronomers by surprise. In the Hercules constellation, NGC 6052 is in fact the result of a slow-motion merger between two different galaxies.
Even as it was first noticed, the NGC 6052 galaxy was classified as an ‘abnormal galaxy’. Recent data and the Hubble-snapped images have offered a deeper insight into the true nature of the abnormal galaxy. The unexpected Hubble finding shows two-galaxy merger resulting in this one mega structure.
ESA released a statement declaring that:
“It is in a fact a new galaxy in the process of forming. Two separate galaxies have been gradually drawn together, attracted by gravity and have collided. We now see them merging into a single structure”.
The process remained hidden until now as the two different galaxies are merging so slowly. In addition, the final result is so unpredictable that it may take a long while for anyone to notice it. During the merging process captured by Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 individual stars from the two galaxies are observed shooting out of their orbits to enter new orbits. The unpredictable character of the merger stems from the fact that these new orbits may be far from the initial place of collision between the two galaxies.
The resulting structure, the NGC 6052 galaxy looks rather chaotic due to this process. As the merger process continues, NGC 6052 galaxy will not find a stable form too soon. However, when it does, its final form continues being unpredictable.
The Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 on the Hubble Space Telescope captured images in 48 color filters. These cover the far-ultraviolet to infrared wavelengths.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia
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