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.

2008 May 6
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Galaxies Collide in NGC 3256
Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage (STScI / AURA) - ESA/Hubble Collaboration, & A. Evans (UVa, NRAO, SUNYSB)

Explanation: Galaxies don't normally look like this. NGC 3256 actually shows a current picture of two galaxies that are slowly colliding. Quite possibly, in hundreds of millions of years, only one galaxy will remain. Today, however, NGC 3256 shows intricate filaments of dark dust, unusual tidal tails of stars, and a peculiar center that contains two distinct nuclei. Although it is likely that no stars in the two galaxies will directly collide, the gas, dust, and ambient magnetic fields do interact directly. NGC 3256, part of the vast Hydra-Centaurus supercluster of galaxies, spans over 100 thousand light-years across and is located about 100 million light-years away.

Tomorrow's picture: the gegenschein

< | Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | RSS | Education | About APOD | Discuss | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
NASA Web Privacy Policy and Important Notices
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.