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 September 2
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NGC 1316: After Galaxies Collide
Credit & Copyright: Martin Pugh

Explanation: Astronomers turn detectives when trying to figure out the cause of startling sights like NGC 1316. Their investigation indicates that NGC 1316 is an enormous elliptical galaxy that started, about 100 million years ago, to devour a smaller spiral galaxy neighbor, NGC 1317, just above it. Supporting evidence includes the dark dust lanes characteristic of a spiral galaxy, and faint swirls of stars and gas visible in this wide and deep image. What remains unexplained are the unusually small globular star clusters, seen as faint dots on the image. Most elliptical galaxies have more and brighter globular clusters than NGC 1316. Yet the observed globulars are too old to have been created by the recent spiral collision. One hypothesis is that these globulars survive from an even earlier galaxy that was subsumed into NGC 1316.

Tomorrow's picture: looking back

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