Astronomy Picture of the Day

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

December 28, 1995
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.
NGC 6240: When Galaxies Collide
Credit: 2.2m Telescope, La Silla, Chile, ESO, MPI, W. Keel (UA)

Explanation: Sometimes even galaxies can suffer a fatal attraction. Here gravity causes two galaxies to collide in a spectacular display of energetic gas, dust, and light. When galaxies collide it is rare that any stars in the galaxies themselves collide, or that any change will be seen in a human lifetime. Rather the structure of one or both galaxies gets slowly disrupted, while interior gas condenses to new star forming regions. Stellar motions in the center of the NGC 6240 frenetic mix are among the highest in any stellar system. Galaxy mergers may emit energetic radiations across the electromagnetic spectrum. This galactic jumble is, in fact, extremely bright in infrared light.

Tomorrow's picture: NGC 4361: Galaxy Shaped Planetary Nebula

| Archive | Glossary | Education | About APOD |
Top 5 logo Best pick logo Cool NASA site logo

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (GMU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA).
NASA Technical Rep.: Sherri Calvo. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC