Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2007 June 8
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Markarian's Eyes
Credit & Copyright: Ken Crawford (Rancho Del Sol Observatory)

Explanation: Across the heart of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster lies a string of galaxies known as Markarian's Chain. Prominent in Markarian's Chain are these two interacting galaxies, NGC 4438 (left) and NGC 4435 - also known as The Eyes. About 50 million light-years away, the two galaxies appear to be about 100,000 light-years apart in this sharp close-up, but have likely approached to within an estimated 16,000 light-years of each other in their cosmic past. Gravitational tides from the close encounter have ripped away at their stars, gas, and dust. The more massive NGC 4438 managed to hold on to much of the material torn out in the collision, while material from the smaller NGC 4435 was more easily lost. The remarkably deep image of this crowded region of the universe also includes many more distant background galaxies.

Tomorrow's picture: light-weekend

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