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.

2010 May 7
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
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The Antennae
Credit & Copyright: Star Shadows Remote Observatory and PROMPT/CTIO
(Jack Harvey, Steve Mazlin, Rick Gilbert, and Daniel Verschatse)

Explanation: Some 60 million light-years away in the southerly constellation Corvus, two large galaxies collided. But the stars in the two galaxies cataloged as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 don't collide in the course of the ponderous, billion year or so long event. Instead, their large clouds of molecular gas and dust do, triggering furious episodes of star formation near the center of the cosmic wreckage. Spanning about 500 thousand light-years, this stunning view also reveals new star clusters and matter flung far from the scene of the accident by gravitational tidal forces. Of course, the visual appearance of the far-flung arcing structures gives the galaxy pair its popular name - The Antennae.

Tomorrow's picture: Atlantis Lift Off

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