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Astronomy Picture of the Day
Search Results for "colliding galaxy"




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Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 May 3 – Centaurus A: A Peculiar Island of Stars
Explanation: Galaxies are fascinating. In galaxies, gravity alone holds together massive collections of stars, dust, interstellar gas, stellar remnants and dark matter. Pictured is NGC 5128, better known as Centaurus A. Cen A is the fifth brightest galaxy on the sky and is located at a distance of about 12 million light years from Earth. The warped shape of Cen A is the result of a merger between an elliptical and a spiral galaxy. Its active galactic nucleus harbors a supermassive black hole that is about 55 million times more massive than our Sun. This central black hole ejects a fast jet visible in both radio and X-ray light. Filaments of the jet are visible in red in the upper left. New observations by the Event Horizon Telescope have revealed a brightening of the jet only towards its edges -- but for reasons that are currently unknown and an active topic of research.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 April 3 – The Galactic Center Radio Arc
Explanation: What causes this unusual curving structure near the center of our Galaxy? The long parallel rays slanting across the top of the featured radio image are known collectively as the Galactic Center Radio Arc and point out from the Galactic plane. The Radio Arc is connected to the Galactic Center by strange curving filaments known as the Arches. The bright radio structure at the bottom right surrounds a black hole at the Galactic Center and is known as Sagittarius A*. One origin hypothesis holds that the Radio Arc and the Arches have their geometry because they contain hot plasma flowing along lines of a constant magnetic field. Images from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory appear to show this plasma colliding with a nearby cloud of cold gas.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 January 23 – The Colliding Spiral Galaxies of Arp 274
Explanation: Two galaxies are squaring off in Virgo and here are the latest pictures. When two galaxies collide, the stars that compose them usually do not. This is because galaxies are mostly empty space and, however bright, stars only take up only a small fraction of that space. But during the collision, one galaxy can rip the other apart gravitationally, and dust and gas common to both galaxies does collide. If the two galaxies merge, black holes that likely resided in each galaxy center may eventually merge. Because the distances are so large, the whole thing takes place in slow motion -- over hundreds of millions of years. Besides the two large spiral galaxies, a smaller third galaxy is visible on the far left of the featured image of Arp 274, also known as NGC 5679. Arp 274 spans about 200,000 light years across and lies about 400 million light years away toward the constellation of Virgo.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 January 20 - Galaxy Wars: M81 and M82
Explanation: The two dominant galaxies near center are far far away, 12 million light-years distant toward the northern constellation of the Great Bear. On the right, with grand spiral arms and bright yellow core is spiral galaxy M81. Also known as Bode's galaxy, M81 spans some 100,000 light-years. On the left is cigar-shaped irregular galaxy M82. The pair have been locked in gravitational combat for a billion years. Gravity from each galaxy has profoundly affected the other during a series of cosmic close encounters. Their last go-round lasted about 100 million years and likely raised density waves rippling around M81, resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. M82 was left with violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds so energetic that the galaxy glows in X-rays. In the next few billion years, their continuing gravitational encounters will result in a merger, and a single galaxy will remain. This extragalactic scenario also includes other members of the interacting M81 galaxy group with NGC 3077 below and right of the large spiral, and NGC 2976 at upper right in the frame. Captured under dark night skies in the Austrian Alps, the foreground of the wide-field image is filled with integrated flux nebulae. Those faint, dusty interstellar clouds reflect starlight above the plane of our own Milky Way galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 March 31 - Exploring the Antennae
Explanation: Some 60 million light-years away in the southerly constellation Corvus, two large galaxies are colliding. Stars in the two galaxies, cataloged as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, very rarely collide in the course of the ponderous cataclysm that lasts for hundreds of millions of years. But the galaxies' large clouds of molecular gas and dust often do, triggering furious episodes of star formation near the center of the cosmic wreckage. Spanning over 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. The remarkably sharp ground-based image, an accumulation of 88 hours of exposure captured during 2012-2021, follows the faint tidal tails and distant background galaxies in the field of view. The suggestive overall visual appearance of the extended arcing structures gives the galaxy pair, also known as Arp 244, its popular name - The Antennae.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 October 4 - NGC 4676: When Mice Collide
Explanation: These two mighty galaxies are pulling each other apart. Known as the "Mice" because they have such long tails, each spiral galaxy has likely already passed through the other. The long tails are created by the relative difference between gravitational pulls on the near and far parts of each galaxy. Because the distances are so large, the cosmic interaction takes place in slow motion -- over hundreds of millions of years. NGC 4676 lies about 300 million light-years away toward the constellation of Bernice's Hair (Coma Berenices) and are likely members of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies. The featured picture was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys in 2002. These galactic mice will probably collide again and again over the next billion years so that, instead of continuing to pull each other apart, they coalesce to form a single galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 September 7 - NGC 520: Colliding Galaxies from Hubble
Explanation: Is this one galaxy or two? The jumble of stars, gas, and dust that is NGC 520 is now thought to incorporate the remains of two separate disk galaxies. A defining component of NGC 520 -- as seen in great detail in the featured image from the Hubble Space Telescope -- is its band of intricately interlaced dust running vertically down the spine of the colliding galaxies. A similar looking collision might be expected in a few billion years when our disk Milky Way Galaxy to collides with our large-disk galactic neighbor Andromeda (M31). The collision that defines NGC 520 started about 300 million years ago. Also known as Arp 157, NGC 520 lies about 100 million light years distant, spans about 100 thousand light years, and can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of the Fish (Pisces). Although the speeds of stars in NGC 520 are fast, the distances are so vast that the battling pair will surely not change its shape noticeably during our lifetimes.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 June 21 - The Tadpole Galaxy from Hubble
Explanation: Why does this galaxy have such a long tail? In this stunning vista, based on image data from the Hubble Legacy Archive, distant galaxies form a dramatic backdrop for disrupted spiral galaxy Arp 188, the Tadpole Galaxy. The cosmic tadpole is a mere 420 million light-years distant toward the northern constellation of the Dragon (Draco). Its eye-catching tail is about 280 thousand light-years long and features massive, bright blue star clusters. One story goes that a more compact intruder galaxy crossed in front of Arp 188 - from right to left in this view - and was slung around behind the Tadpole by their gravitational attraction. During the close encounter, tidal forces drew out the spiral galaxy's stars, gas, and dust forming the spectacular tail. The intruder galaxy itself, estimated to lie about 300 thousand light-years behind the Tadpole, can be seen through foreground spiral arms at the upper right. Following its terrestrial namesake, the Tadpole Galaxy will likely lose its tail as it grows older, the tail's star clusters forming smaller satellites of the large spiral galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 June 2 - The Galactic Center in Stars, Gas, and Magnetism
Explanation: What's going on near the center of our galaxy? To help find out, a newly detailed panorama has been composed that explores regions just above and below the galactic plane in radio and X-ray light. X-ray light taken by the orbiting Chandra Observatory is shown in orange (hot), green (hotter), and purple (hottest) and superposed with a highly detailed image in radio waves, shown in gray, acquired by the MeerKAT array. Interactions are numerous and complex. Galactic beasts such as expanding supernova remnants, hot winds from newly formed stars, unusually strong and colliding magnetic fields, and a central supermassive black hole are all battling in a space only 1000 light years across. Thin bright stripes appear to result from twisting and newly connecting magnetic fields in colliding regions, creating an energetic type of inner galactic space weather with similarities to that created by our Sun. Continued observations and study hold promise to not only shed more light on the history and evolution of our own galaxy -- but all galaxies.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 March 27 - Exploring the Antennae
Explanation: Some 60 million light-years away in the southerly constellation Corvus, two large galaxies are colliding. Stars in the two galaxies, cataloged as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, very rarely collide in the course of the ponderous cataclysm that lasts for hundreds of millions of years. But the galaxies' large clouds of molecular gas and dust often do, triggering furious episodes of star formationi near the center of the cosmic wreckage. Spanning over 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. The remarkably sharp ground-based image includes narrowband data that highlights the characteristic red glow of atomic hydrogen gas in star-forming regions. The suggestive overall visual appearance of the extended arcing structures gives the galaxy pair its popular name - The Antennae.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 December 3 - The Antennae Galaxies in Collision
Explanation: Sixty million light-years away toward the southerly constellation Corvus, these two large galaxies are colliding. The cosmic train wreck captured in stunning detail in this Hubble Space Telescope snapshot takes hundreds of millions of years to play out. Cataloged as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, the galaxies' individual stars don't often collide though. Their large clouds of molecular gas and dust do, triggering furious episodes of star formation near the center of the wreckage. New star clusters and interstellar matter are jumbled and flung far from the scene of the accident by gravitational forces. This Hubble close-up frame is about 50,000 light-years across at the estimated distance of the colliding galaxies. In wider-field views their suggestive visual appearance, with extended structures arcing for hundreds of thousands of light-years, gives the galaxy pair its popular name, The Antennae Galaxies.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 November 7 - The Hercules Cluster of Galaxies
Explanation: These are galaxies of the Hercules Cluster, an archipelago of island universes a mere 500 million light-years away. Also known as Abell 2151, this cluster is loaded with gas and dust rich, star-forming spiral galaxies but has relatively few elliptical galaxies, which lack gas and dust and the associated newborn stars. The colors in this deep composite image clearly show the star forming galaxies with a blue tint and galaxies with older stellar populations with a yellowish cast. The sharp picture spans about 1/2 degree across the cluster center, corresponding to over 4 million light-years at the cluster's estimated distance. Diffraction spikes around brighter foreground stars in our own Milky Way galaxy are produced by the imaging telescope's mirror support vanes. In the cosmic vista many galaxies seem to be colliding or merging while others seem distorted - clear evidence that cluster galaxies commonly interact. In fact, the Hercules Cluster itself may be seen as the result of ongoing mergers of smaller galaxy clusters and is thought to be similar to young galaxy clusters in the much more distant, early Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 October 18 - UGC 1810: Wildly Interacting Galaxy from Hubble
Explanation: What's happening to this spiral galaxy? Although details remain uncertain, it surely has to do with an ongoing battle with its smaller galactic neighbor. The featured galaxy is labelled UGC 1810 by itself, but together with its collisional partner is known as Arp 273. The overall shape of UGC 1810 -- in particular its blue outer ring -- is likely a result of wild and violent gravitational interactions. This ring's blue color is caused by massive stars that are blue hot and have formed only in the past few million years. The inner galaxy appears older, redder, and threaded with cool filamentary dust. A few bright stars appear well in the foreground, unrelated to UGC 1810, while several galaxies are visible well in the background. Arp 273 lies about 300 million light years away toward the constellation of Andromeda. Quite likely, UGC 1810 will devour its galactic sidekick over the next billion years and settle into a classic spiral form.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 May 15 - Galaxy Wars: M81 and M82
Explanation: These two galaxies are far far away, 12 million light-years distant toward the northern constellation of the Great Bear. On the left, with grand spiral arms and bright yellow core is spiral galaxy M81, some 100,000 light-years across. On the right marked by red gas and dust clouds, is irregular galaxy M82. The pair have been locked in gravitational combat for a billion years. Gravity from each galaxy has profoundly affected the other during a series of cosmic close encounters. Their last go-round lasted about 100 million years and likely raised density waves rippling around M81, resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. M82 was left with violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds so energetic the galaxy glows in X-rays. In the next few billion years, their continuing gravitational encounters will result in a merger, and a single galaxy will remain.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 May 10 - The Porpoise Galaxy from Hubble
Explanation: What's happening to this spiral galaxy? Just a few hundred million years ago, NGC 2936, the upper of the two large galaxies shown, was likely a normal spiral galaxy -- spinning, creating stars -- and minding its own business. But then it got too close to the massive elliptical galaxy NGC 2937 below and took a dive. Dubbed the Porpoise Galaxy for its iconic shape, NGC 2936 is not only being deflected but also being distorted by the close gravitational interaction. A burst of young blue stars forms the nose of the porpoise toward the right of the upper galaxy, while the center of the spiral appears as an eye. Alternatively, the galaxy pair, together known as Arp 142, look to some like a penguin protecting an egg. Either way, intricate dark dust lanes and bright blue star streams trail the troubled galaxy to the lower right. The featured re-processed image showing Arp 142 in unprecedented detail was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope last year. Arp 142 lies about 300 million light years away toward the constellation, coincidently, of the Water Snake (Hydra). In a billion years or so the two galaxies will likely merge into one larger galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 November 20 - Arp 273: Battling Galaxies from Hubble
Explanation: What's happening to these spiral galaxies? Although details remain uncertain, there sure seems to be a titanic battle going on. The upper galaxy is labelled UGC 1810 by itself, but together with its collisional partners is known as Arp 273. The overall shape of the UGC 1810 -- in particular its blue outer ring -- is likely a result of wild and violent gravitational interactions. The blue color of the outer ring at the top is caused by massive stars that are blue hot and have formed only in the past few million years. The inner part of the upper galaxy -- itself an older spiral galaxy -- appears redder and threaded with cool filamentary dust. A few bright stars appear well in the foreground, unrelated to colliding galaxies, while several far-distant galaxies are visible in the background. Arp 273 lies about 300 million light years away toward the constellation of Andromeda. Quite likely, UGC 1810 will devour its galactic sidekicks over the next billion years and settle into a classic spiral form.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 June 14 - NGC 4676: The Mighty Mice
Explanation: These two mighty galaxies are pulling each other apart. Known as The Mice because they have such long tails, each large spiral galaxy has actually passed through the other. Their long tails are drawn out by strong gravitational tides rather than collisions of their individual stars. Because the distances are so large, the cosmic interaction takes place in slow motion -- over hundreds of millions of years. They will probably collide again and again over the next billion years until they coalesce to form a single galaxy. NGC 4676 lies about 300 million light-years away toward the constellation of Bernice's Hair (Coma Berenices) and are likely members of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies. Not often imaged in small telescopes, this field of view catches the faint tidal tails several hundred thousand light-years long.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 June 3 - Stephan's Quintet from Hubble
Explanation: When did these big galaxies first begin to dance? Really only four of the five of Stephan's Quintet are locked in a cosmic tango of repeated close encounters taking place some 300 million light-years away. The odd galaxy out is easy to spot in this recently reprocessed image by the Hubble Space Telescope -- the interacting galaxies, NGC 7319, 7318B, 7318A, and 7317 (left to right), have a more dominant yellowish cast. They also tend to have distorted loops and tails, grown under the influence of disruptive gravitational tides. The mostly bluish galaxy, large NGC 7320 on the lower left, is in the foreground at about 40 million light-years distant, and so is not part of the interacting group. Data and modeling indicate that NGC 7318B is a relatively new intruder. A recently-discovered halo of old red stars surrounding Stephan's Quintet indicate that at least some of these galaxies started tangling over a billion years. Stephan's Quintet is visible with a moderate sized-telescope toward the constellation of Winged Horse (Pegasus).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 March 25 - Arp 194: Merging Galaxy Group
Explanation: Why are stars forming in the bridge between these colliding galaxies? Usually when galaxies crash, star formation is confined to galaxy disks or tidal tails. In Arp 194, though, there are bright knots of young stars right in a connecting bridge. Analyses of images and data including the featured image of Arp 194 from Hubble, as well as computer simulations of the interaction, indicate that the bottom galaxy passed right through the top galaxy within the past 100 million years. The result has left a stream of gas that is now falling toward the bottom galaxy. Astronomers hypothesize that stars form in this bridge because of the recent fading of turbulence after the rapid collision. In about a billion years, the galaxies -- including a smaller galaxy superposed on the upper galaxy (see it?) -- will all merge into one larger galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 February 1 - Twin Galaxies in Virgo
Explanation: Spiral galaxy pair NGC 4567 and NGC 4568 share this sharp cosmic vista with lonely elliptical galaxy NGC 4564. All are members of the large Virgo Galaxy Cluster. With their classic spiral arms, dust lanes, and star clusters, the eye-catching spiral pair is also known as the Butterfly Galaxies. Very close together, the galaxy twins don't seem to be too distorted by gravitational tides. Their giant molecular clouds are known to be colliding though and are likely fueling the formation of massive star clusters. The galaxy twins are about 52 million light-years distant, while their bright cores appear separated by about 20,000 light-years. Of course, the spiky foreground stars lie within our own Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 September 17 - Cosmic Collision Forges Galactic Ring
Explanation: How could a galaxy become shaped like a ring? The rim of the blue galaxy pictured on the right is an immense ring-like structure 150,000 light years in diameter composed of newly formed, extremely bright, massive stars. That galaxy, AM 0644-741, is known as a ring galaxy and was caused by an immense galaxy collision. When galaxies collide, they pass through each other -- their individual stars rarely come into contact. The ring-like shape is the result of the gravitational disruption caused by an entire small intruder galaxy passing through a large one. When this happens, interstellar gas and dust become condensed, causing a wave of star formation to move out from the impact point like a ripple across the surface of a pond. The likely intruder galaxy is on the left of this combined image from Hubble (visible) and Chandra (X-ray) space telescopes. X-ray light is shown in pink and depicts places where energetic black holes or neutron stars, likely formed shortly after the galaxy collision, reside.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 July 24 - Clouds of Earth and Sky
Explanation: If you go high enough, you may find yourself on a picturesque perch between the water clouds of the Earth and the star clouds of the Milky Way. Such was the case last month for one adventurous alpinist astrophotographer. Captured here in the foreground above white clouds are mountain peaks in the Dolomite range in northern Italy. This multi-exposure image was captured from Lagazuoi, one of the Dolomites. Hundreds of millions of years ago, the Dolomites were not mountains but islands an ancient sea that rose through colliding tectonic plates. The Dolomites divergent history accounts for its unusually contrasting features, which include jagged crests and ancient marine fossils. High above even the Dolomites, and far in the distance, dark dust lanes streak out from the central plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. The stars and dust are dotted with bright red clouds of glowing hydrogen gas -- such as the Lagoon Nebula just above and to the left of center.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 May 23 - Spiral Galaxy NGC 4038 in Collision
Explanation: This galaxy is having a bad millennium. In fact, the past 100 million years haven't been so good, and probably the next billion or so will be quite tumultuous. Visible toward the lower right, NGC 4038 used to be a normal spiral galaxy, minding its own business, until NGC 4039, to its upper left, crashed into it. The evolving wreckage, known famously as the Antennae, is featured here. As gravity restructures each galaxy, clouds of gas slam into each other, bright blue knots of stars form, massive stars form and explode, and brown filaments of dust are strewn about. Eventually the two galaxies will converge into one larger spiral galaxy. Such collisions are not unusual, and even our own Milky Way Galaxy has undergone several in the past and is predicted to collide with our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy in a few billion years. The frames that compose this image were taken by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope by professional astronomers to better understand galaxy collisions. These frames -- and many other deep space images from Hubble -- have since been made public, allowing interested amateurs to download and process them into, for example, this visually stunning composite.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 April 28 - Exploring the Antennae
Explanation: Some 60 million light-years away in the southerly constellation Corvus, two large galaxies are colliding. Stars in the two galaxies, cataloged as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, very rarely collide in the course of the ponderous cataclysm that lasts for hundreds of millions of years. But the galaxies' large clouds of molecular gas and dust often do, triggering furious episodes of star formation near the center of the cosmic wreckage. Spanning over 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. The remarkable mosaicked image was constructed using data from the ground-based Subaru telescope to bring out large-scale and faint tidal streams, and Hubble Space Telescope data of extreme detail in the bright cores. The suggestive visual appearance of the extended arcing structures gives the galaxy pair its popular name - The Antennae.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 February 6 - The Porpoise Galaxy from Hubble
Explanation: What's happening to this spiral galaxy? Just a few hundred million years ago, NGC 2936, the upper of the two large galaxies shown, was likely a normal spiral galaxy -- spinning, creating stars -- and minding its own business. But then it got too close to the massive elliptical galaxy NGC 2937 below and took a dive. Dubbed the Porpoise Galaxy for its iconic shape, NGC 2936 is not only being deflected but also being distorted by the close gravitational interaction. A burst of young blue stars forms the nose of the porpoise toward the right of the upper galaxy, while the center of the spiral appears as an eye. Alternatively, the galaxy pair, together known as Arp 142, look to some like a penguin protecting an egg. Either way, intricate dark dust lanes and bright blue star streams trail the troubled galaxy to the lower right. The featured re-processed image showing Arp 142 in unprecedented detail was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope last year. Arp 142 lies about 300 million light years away toward the constellation, coincidently, of the Water Snake (Hydra). In a billion years or so the two galaxies will likely merge into one larger galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 February 2 - NGC 1316: After Galaxies Collide
Explanation: An example of violence on a cosmic scale, enormous elliptical galaxy NGC 1316 lies about 75 million light-years away toward Fornax, the southern constellation of the Furnace. Investigating the startling sight, astronomers suspect the giant galaxy of colliding with smaller neighbor NGC 1317 seen just above, causing far flung loops and shells of stars. Light from their close encounter would have reached Earth some 100 million years ago. In the deep, sharp image, the central regions of NGC 1316 and NGC 1317 appear separated by over 100,000 light-years. Complex dust lanes visible within also indicate that NGC 1316 is itself the result of a merger of galaxies in the distant past. Found on the outskirts of the Fornax galaxy cluster, NGC 1316 is known as Fornax A. One of the visually brightest of the Fornax cluster galaxies it is one of the strongest and largest radio sources with radio emission extending well beyond this telescopic field-of-view, over several degrees on the sky.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 December 18 - The Cartwheel Galaxy from Hubble
Explanation: To some, it looks like the wheel of a cart. In fact, because of its outward oval appearance, the presence of a central galaxy, and their connection with what looks like the spokes of a wheel, the galaxy on the right is known as the Cartwheel Galaxy. To others, however, it looks like a complicated interaction between galaxies awaiting explanation. Along with the two galaxies on the left, the Cartwheel is part of a group of galaxies about 400 million light years away in the constellation Sculptor. The large galaxy's rim spans over 100,000 light years and is composed of star forming regions filled with extremely bright and massive stars. Pictured, the Cartwheel's ring-like shape is the result of gravitational disruption caused by a smaller galaxy passing through a large one, compressing the interstellar gas and dust and causing a star formation wave to move out like a ripple across the surface of a pond.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 November 1 - Arp 299: Black Holes in Colliding Galaxies
Explanation: Is only one black hole spewing high energy radiation -- or two? To help find out, astronomers trained NASA's Earth-orbiting NuSTAR and Chandra telescopes on Arp 299, the enigmatic colliding galaxies expelling the radiation. The two galaxies of Arp 299 have been locked in a gravitational combat for millions of years, while their central black holes will soon do battle themselves. Featured, the high-resolution visible-light image was taken by Hubble, while the superposed diffuse glow of X-ray light was imaged by NuSTAR and shown in false-color red, green, and blue. NuSTAR observations show that only one of the central black holes is seen fighting its way through a region of gas and dust -- and so absorbing matter and emitting X-rays. The energetic radiation, coming only from the galaxy center on the right, is surely created nearby -- but outside -- the central black hole's event horizon. In a billion years or so, only one composite galaxy will remain, and only one central supermassive black hole. Soon thereafter, though, another galaxy may enter the fray.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 August 10 - Colliding Galaxies in Stephans Quintet
Explanation: Will either of these galaxies survive? In what might be dubbed as a semi-final round in a galactic elimination tournament, the two spirals of NGC 7318 are colliding. The featured picture was created from images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. When galaxies crash into each other, many things may happen including gravitational distortion, gas condensing to produce new episodes of star formation, and ultimately the two galaxies combining into one. Since these two galaxies are part of Stephan's Quintet, a final round of battling galaxies will likely occur over the next few billion years with the eventual result of many scattered stars and one large galaxy. Quite possibly, the remaining galaxy will not be easily identified with any of its initial galactic components. Stephan's Quintet was the first identified galaxy group, lies about 300 million light years away, and is visible through a moderately-sized telescope toward the constellation of the Winged Horse (Pegasus).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 July 25 - Deep Magellanic Clouds Image Indicates Collisions
Explanation: Did the two most famous satellite galaxies of our Milky Way Galaxy once collide? No one knows for sure, but a detailed inspection of deep images like that featured here give an indication that they have. Pictured, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is on the top left and the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) is on the bottom right. The surrounding field is monochrome color-inverted to highlight faint filaments, shown in gray. Perhaps surprisingly, the featured research-grade image was compiled with small telescopes to cover the large angular field -- nearly 40 degrees across. Much of the faint nebulosity is Galactic Cirrus clouds of thin dust in our own Galaxy, but a faint stream of stars does appear to be extending from the SMC toward the LMC. Also, stars surrounding the LMC appear asymmetrically distributed, indicating in simulations that they could well have been pulled off gravitationally in one or more collisions. Both the LMC and the SMC are visible to the unaided eye in southern skies. Future telescopic observations and computer simulations are sure to continue in a continuing effort to better understand the history of our Milky Way and its surroundings.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 April 26 - NGC 6872: A Stretched Spiral Galaxy
Explanation: What makes this spiral galaxy so long? Measuring over 700,000 light years across from top to bottom, NGC 6872, also known as the Condor galaxy, is one of the most elongated barred spiral galaxies known. The galaxy's protracted shape likely results from its continuing collision with the smaller galaxy IC 4970, visible just above center. Of particular interest is NGC 6872's spiral arm on the upper left, as pictured here, which exhibits an unusually high amount of blue star forming regions. The light we see today left these colliding giants before the days of the dinosaurs, about 300 million years ago. NGC 6872 is visible with a small telescope toward the constellation of the Peacock (Pavo).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 February 3 - Galaxy Wars: M81 versus M82
Explanation: In the lower left corner, surrounded by blue spiral arms, is spiral galaxy M81. In the upper right corner, marked by red gas and dust clouds, is irregular galaxy M82. This stunning vista shows these two mammoth galaxies locked in gravitational combat, as they have been for the past billion years. The gravity from each galaxy dramatically affects the other during each hundred million-year pass. Last go-round, M82's gravity likely raised density waves rippling around M81, resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. But M81 left M82 with violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds so energetic the galaxy glows in X-rays. This big battle is seen from Earth through the faint glow of an Integrated Flux Nebula, a little studied complex of diffuse gas and dust clouds in our Milky Way Galaxy. In a few billion years only one galaxy will remain.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 August 9 - HCG 87: A Small Group of Galaxies
Explanation: Sometimes galaxies form groups. For example, our own Milky Way Galaxy is part of the Local Group of Galaxies. Small, compact groups, like Hickson Compact Group 87 (HCG 87) shown above, are interesting partly because they slowly self-destruct. Indeed, the galaxies of HCG 87 are gravitationally stretching each other during their 100-million year orbits around a common center. The pulling creates colliding gas that causes bright bursts of star formation and feeds matter into their active galaxy centers. HCG 87 is composed of a large edge-on spiral galaxy visible near the image center, an elliptical galaxy visible to its right, and a spiral galaxy visible near the top. The small spiral near the center might be far in the distance. Several stars from our Galaxy are also visible in the foreground. Studying groups like HCG 87 allows insight into how all galaxies form and evolve.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 February 12 - Exploring the Antennae
Explanation: Some 60 million light-years away in the southerly constellation Corvus, two large galaxies are colliding. The stars in the two galaxies, cataloged as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, very rarely collide in the course of the ponderous cataclysm, lasting hundreds of millions of years. But their large clouds of molecular gas and dust often do, triggering furious episodes of star formation near the center of the cosmic wreckage. Spanning about 500 thousand light-years, this stunning composited view also reveals new star clusters and matter flung far from the scene of the accident by gravitational tidal forces. The remarkable collaborative image is a mosaic constructed using data from small and large ground-based telescopes to bring out large-scale and faint tidal streams, composited with the bright cores imaged in extreme detail by the Hubble Space Telescope. Of course, the suggestive visual appearance of the extended arcing structures gives the galaxy pair its popular name - The Antennae.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 February 1 - NGC 4676: When Mice Collide
Explanation: These two mighty galaxies are pulling each other apart. Known as the "Mice" because they have such long tails, each spiral galaxy has likely already passed through the other. The long tails are created by the relative difference between gravitational pulls on the near and far parts of each galaxy. Because the distances are so large, the cosmic interaction takes place in slow motion -- over hundreds of millions of years. NGC 4676 lies about 300 million light-years away toward the constellation of Bernice's Hair (Coma Berenices) and are likely members of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies. The above picture was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys in 2002. These galactic mice will probably collide again and again over the next billion years until they coalesce to form a single galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 August 25 - Arp 188 and the Tadpole's Tail
Explanation: Why does this galaxy have such a long tail? In this stunning vista, based on image data from the Hubble Legacy Archive, distant galaxies form a dramatic backdrop for disrupted spiral galaxy Arp 188, the Tadpole Galaxy. The cosmic tadpole is a mere 420 million light-years distant toward the northern constellation Draco. Its eye-catching tail is about 280 thousand light-years long and features massive, bright blue star clusters. One story goes that a more compact intruder galaxy crossed in front of Arp 188 - from right to left in this view - and was slung around behind the Tadpole by their gravitational attraction. During the close encounter, tidal forces drew out the spiral galaxy's stars, gas, and dust forming the spectacular tail. The intruder galaxy itself, estimated to lie about 300 thousand light-years behind the Tadpole, can be seen through foreground spiral arms at the upper right. Following its terrestrial namesake, the Tadpole Galaxy will likely lose its tail as it grows older, the tail's star clusters forming smaller satellites of the large spiral galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 June 25 - The Hercules Cluster of Galaxies
Explanation: These are galaxies of the Hercules Cluster, an archipelago of island universes a mere 500 million light-years away. Also known as Abell 2151, this cluster is loaded with gas and dust rich, star-forming spiral galaxies but has relatively few elliptical galaxies, which lack gas and dust and the associated newborn stars. The colors in this remarkably deep composite image clearly show the star forming galaxies with a blue tint and galaxies with older stellar populations with a yellowish cast. The sharp picture spans about 3/4 degree across the cluster center, corresponding to over 6 million light-years at the cluster's estimated distance. Diffraction spikes around brighter foreground stars in our own Milky Way galaxy are produced by the imaging telescope's mirror support vanes. In the cosmic vista many galaxies seem to be colliding or merging while others seem distorted - clear evidence that cluster galaxies commonly interact. In fact, the Hercules Cluster itself may be seen as the result of ongoing mergers of smaller galaxy clusters and is thought to be similar to young galaxy clusters in the much more distant, early Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 March 16 - The Antennae Galaxies in Collision
Explanation: Two galaxies are squaring off in Corvus and here are the latest pictures. When two galaxies collide, the stars that compose them usually do not. That's because galaxies are mostly empty space and, however bright, stars only take up only a small amount of that space. During the slow, hundred million year collision, one galaxy can still rip the other apart gravitationally, and dust and gas common to both galaxies does collide. In this clash of the titans, dark dust pillars mark massive molecular clouds are being compressed during the galactic encounter, causing the rapid birth of millions of stars, some of which are gravitationally bound together in massive star clusters.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 March 10 - Gamma Rays from Galactic Center Dark Matter
Explanation: What is creating the gamma rays at the center of our Galaxy? Excitement is building that one answer is elusive dark matter. Over the past few years the orbiting Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has been imaging our Galaxy's center in gamma-rays. Repeated detailed analyses indicate that the region surrounding the Galactic center seems too bright to be accounted by known gamma-ray sources. A raw image of the Galactic Center region in gamma-rays is shown above on the left, while the image on the right has all known sources subtracted -- leaving an unexpected excess. An exciting hypothetical model that seems to fit the excess involves a type of dark matter known as WIMPs, which may be colliding with themselves to create the detected gamma-rays. This hypothesis is controversial, however, and debate and more detailed investigations are ongoing. Finding the nature of dark matter is one of the great quests of modern science, as previously this unusual type of cosmologically pervasive matter has shown itself only through gravitation.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 December 10 - Seyferts Sextet
Explanation: What will survive this battle of the galaxies? Known as Seyfert's Sextet, this intriguing group of galaxies lies in the head portion of the split constellation of the Snake (Serpens). The sextet actually contains only four interacting galaxies, though. Near the center of this Hubble Space Telescope picture, the small face-on spiral galaxy lies in the distant background and appears only by chance aligned with the main group. Also, the prominent condensation on the upper left is likely not a separate galaxy at all, but a tidal tail of stars flung out by the galaxies' gravitational interactions. About 190 million light-years away, the interacting galaxies are tightly packed into a region around 100,000 light-years across, comparable to the size of our own Milky Way galaxy, making this one of the densest known galaxy groups. Bound by gravity, the close-knit group may coalesce into a single large galaxy over the next few billion years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 August 25 - The Colliding Spiral Galaxies of Arp 271
Explanation: What will become of these galaxies? Spiral galaxies NGC 5426 and NGC 5427 are passing dangerously close to each other, but each is likely to survive this collision. Typically when galaxies collide, a large galaxy eats a much smaller galaxy. In this case, however, the two galaxies are quite similar, each being a sprawling spiral with expansive arms and a compact core. As the galaxies advance over the next tens of millions of years, their component stars are unlikely to collide, although new stars will form in the bunching of gas caused by gravitational tides. Close inspection of the above image taken by the 8-meter Gemini-South Telescope in Chile shows a bridge of material momentarily connecting the two giants. Known collectively as Arp 271, the interacting pair spans about 130,000 light years and lies about 90 million light-years away toward the constellation of Virgo. Recent predictions hold that our Milky Way Galaxy will undergo a similar collision with the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy in a few billion years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 June 24 - The Porpoise Galaxy from Hubble
Explanation: What's happening to this spiral galaxy? Just a few hundred million years ago, NGC 2936, the upper of the two large galaxies shown, was likely a normal spiral galaxy -- spinning, creating stars -- and minding its own business. But then it got too close to the massive elliptical galaxy NGC 2937 below and took a dive. Dubbed the Porpoise Galaxy for its iconic shape, NGC 2936 is not only being deflected but also being distorted by the close gravitational interaction. A burst of young blue stars forms the nose of the porpoise toward the left of the upper galaxy, while the center of the spiral appears as an eye. Alternatively, the galaxy pair, together known as Arp 142, look to some like a penguin protecting an egg. Either way, intricate dark dust lanes and bright blue star streams trail the troubled galaxy to the lower right. The above recently-released image showing Arp 142 in unprecedented detail was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope last year. Arp 142 lies about 300 million light years away toward the constellation, coincidently, of the Water Snake (Hydra). In a billion years or so the two galaxies will likely merge into one larger galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 May 14 - Galaxy Collisions: Simulation vs Observations
Explanation: What happens when two galaxies collide? Although it may take over a billion years, such titanic clashes are quite common. Since galaxies are mostly empty space, no internal stars are likely to themselves collide. Rather the gravitation of each galaxy will distort or destroy the other galaxy, and the galaxies may eventually merge to form a single larger galaxy. Expansive gas and dust clouds collide and trigger waves of star formation that complete even during the interaction process. Pictured above is a computer simulation of two large spiral galaxies colliding, interspersed with real still images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Our own Milky Way Galaxy has absorbed several smaller galaxies during its existence and is even projected to merge with the larger neighboring Andromeda galaxy in a few billion years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 December 17 - NGC 922: Collisional Ring Galaxy
Explanation: Why does this galaxy have so many big black holes? No one is sure. What is sure is that NGC 922 is a ring galaxy created by the collision of a large and small galaxy about 300 million years ago. Like a rock thrown into a pond, the ancient collision sent ripples of high density gas out from the impact point near the center that partly condensed into stars. Pictured above is NGC 922 with its beautifully complex ring along the left side, as imaged recently by the Hubble Space Telescope. Observations of NGC 922 with the Chandra X-ray Observatory, however, show several glowing X-ray knots that are likely large black holes. The high number of massive black holes was somewhat surprising as the gas composition in NGC 922 -- rich in heavy elements -- should have discouraged almost anything so massive from forming. Research is sure to continue. NGC 922 spans about 75,000 light years, lies about 150 million light years away, and can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of the furnace (Fornax).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 September 30 - A Galaxy Collision in NGC 6745
Explanation: Galaxies don't normally look like this. NGC 6745 actually shows the results of two galaxies that have been colliding for only hundreds of millions of years. Just off the above digitally sharpened photograph to the lower right is the smaller galaxy, moving away. The larger galaxy, pictured above, used to be a spiral galaxy but now is damaged and appears peculiar. Gravity has distorted the shapes of the galaxies. Although it is likely that no stars in the two galaxies directly collided, the gas, dust, and ambient magnetic fields do interact directly. In fact, a knot of gas pulled off the larger galaxy on the lower right has now begun to form stars. NGC 6745 spans about 80 thousand light-years across and is located about 200 million light-years away.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 August 12 - Spiral Galaxy NGC 4038 in Collision
Explanation: This galaxy is having a bad millennium. In fact, the past 100 million years haven't been so good, and probably the next billion or so will be quite tumultuous. Visible on the upper left, NGC 4038 used to be a normal spiral galaxy, minding its own business, until NGC 4039, toward its right, crashed into it. The evolving wreckage, known famously as the Antennae, is pictured above. As gravity restructures each galaxy, clouds of gas slam into each other, bright blue knots of stars form, massive stars form and explode, and brown filaments of dust are strewn about. Eventually the two galaxies will converge into one larger spiral galaxy. Such collisions are not unusual, and even our own Milky Way Galaxy has undergone several in the past and is predicted to collide with our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy in a few billion years. The frames that compose this image were taken by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope by professional astronomers to better understand galaxy collisions. These frames -- and many other deep space images from Hubble -- have since been made public, allowing an interested amateur to download and process them into this visually stunning composite.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 July 1 - The Outer Shells of Centaurus A
Explanation: What causes the surrounding shells in peculiar galaxy Cen A? In 2002 a fascinating image of peculiar galaxy Centaurus A was released, processed to highlight a faint blue arc indicating an ongoing collision with a smaller galaxy. Another interesting feature of Cen A, however, is the surrounding system of shells, better visible here in this recently released wider pan from the four meter Blanco telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. Faint shells around galaxies are not unusual and considered by themselves as evidence of a previous galaxy merger, analogous to water ripples on a pond. An unexpected attribute of these shells is the abundance of gas, which should become separated from existing stars during the collision.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 September 22 - Arp 272
Explanation: Linking spiral arms, two large colliding galaxies are featured in this remarkable cosmic portrait constructed using image data from the Hubble Legacy Archive. Recorded in astronomer Halton Arp's Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies as Arp 272, the pair is otherwise known as NGC 6050 near center, and IC 1179 at upper right. A third galaxy, likely also a member of the interacting system, can be spotted above and left of larger spiral NGC 6050. They lie some 450 million light-years away in the Hercules Galaxy Cluster. At that estimated distance, the picture spans over 150 thousand light-years. Although this scenario does look peculiar, galaxy collisions and their eventual mergers are now understood to be common, with Arp 272 representing a stage in this inevitable process. In fact, the nearby large spiral Andromeda Galaxy is known to be approaching our own galaxy and Arp 272 may offer a glimpse of the far future collision between Andromeda and the Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 June 12 - M64: The Sleeping Beauty Galaxy
Explanation: The Sleeping Beauty galaxy may appear peaceful at first sight but it is actually tossing and turning. In an unexpected twist, recent observations have shown that the gas in the outer regions of this photogenic spiral is rotating in the opposite direction from all of the stars! Collisions between gas in the inner and outer regions are creating many hot blue stars and pink emission nebula. The above image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2001 and released in 2004. The fascinating internal motions of M64, also cataloged as NGC 4826, are thought to be the result of a collision between a small galaxy and a large galaxy where the resultant mix has not yet settled down.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 November 16 - Atoms for Peace Galaxy Collision
Explanation: Is this what will become of our Milky Way Galaxy? Perhaps if we collide with the Andromeda Galaxy in a few billion years, it might. Pictured above is NGC 7252, a jumble of stars created by a huge collision between two large galaxies. The collision will take hundreds of millions of years and so is effectively caught frozen in time in the above image. The resulting pandemonium has been dubbed the Atoms-for-Peace galaxy because of its similarity to a cartoon of a large atom. The above image was taken recently by the MPG/ESO 2.2 meter telescope in Chile. NGC 7252 spans about 600,000 light years and lies about 220 million light years away toward the constellation of the Water Bearer (Aquarius). Since the sideways velocity of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) is presently unknown, no one really knows for sure if the Milky Way will ever collide with M31.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 November 7 - The Center of Centaurus A
Explanation: A fantastic jumble of young blue star clusters, gigantic glowing gas clouds, and imposing dark dust lanes surrounds the central region of the active galaxy Centaurus A. This mosaic of Hubble Space Telescope images taken in blue, green, and red light has been processed to present a natural color picture of this cosmic maelstrom. Infrared images from the Hubble have also shown that hidden at the center of this activity are what seem to be disks of matter spiraling into a black hole with a billion times the mass of the Sun! Centaurus A itself is apparently the result of a collision of two galaxies and the left over debris is steadily being consumed by the black hole. Astronomers believe that such black hole central engines generate the radio, X-ray, and gamma-ray energy radiated by Centaurus A and other active galaxies. But for an active galaxy Centaurus A is close, a mere 10 million light-years away, and is a relatively convenient laboratory for exploring these powerful sources of energy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 July 18 - The Antennae Galaxies in Collision
Explanation: Two galaxies are squaring off in Corvus and here are the latest pictures. But when two galaxies collide, the stars that compose them usually do not. That's because galaxies are mostly empty space and, however bright, stars only take up only a small amount of that space. During the slow, hundred million year collision, one galaxy can still rip the other apart gravitationally, and dust and gas common to both galaxies does collide. In this clash of the titans, dark dust pillars mark massive molecular clouds are being compressed during the galactic encounter, causing the rapid birth of millions of stars, some of which are gravitationally bound together in massive star clusters.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 July 6 - HCG 87: A Small Group of Galaxies
Explanation: Sometimes galaxies form groups. For example, our own Milky Way Galaxy is part of the Local Group of Galaxies. Small, compact groups, like Hickson Compact Group 87 (HCG 87) shown above, are interesting partly because they slowly self-destruct. Indeed, the galaxies of HCG 87 are gravitationally stretching each other during their 100-million year orbits around a common center. The pulling creates colliding gas that causes bright bursts of star formation and feeds matter into their active galaxy centers. HCG 87 is composed of a large edge-on spiral galaxy visible on the lower left, an elliptical galaxy visible on the lower right, and a spiral galaxy visible near the top. The small spiral near the center might be far in the distance. Several stars from our Galaxy are also visible in the foreground. The above picture was taken in 1999 July by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. Studying groups like HCG 87 allows insight into how all galaxies form and evolve.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 March 24 - Galaxy Wars: M81 versus M82
Explanation: On the right, surrounded by blue spiral arms, is spiral galaxy M81. On the left, marked by red gas and dust clouds, is irregular galaxy M82. This stunning vista shows these two mammoth galaxies locked in gravitational combat, as they have been for the past billion years. The gravity from each galaxy dramatically affects the other during each hundred million-year pass. Last go-round, M82's gravity likely raised density waves rippling around M81, resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. But M81 left M82 with violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds so energetic the galaxy glows in X-rays. In a few billion years only one galaxy will remain.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 March 14 - Binary Black Hole in 3C 75
Explanation: What's happening in the middle of this massive galaxy? There, two bright sources at the center of this composite x-ray (blue)/radio (pink) image are thought to be co-orbiting supermassive black holes powering the giant radio source 3C 75. Surrounded by multimillion degree x-ray emitting gas, and blasting out jets of relativistic particles the supermassive black holes are separated by 25,000 light-years. At the cores of two merging galaxies in the Abell 400 galaxy cluster they are some 300 million light-years away. Astronomers conclude that these two supermassive black holes are bound together by gravity in a binary system in part because the jets' consistent swept back appearance is most likely due to their common motion as they speed through the hot cluster gas at 1200 kilometers per second. Such spectacular cosmic mergers are thought to be common in crowded galaxy cluster environments in the distant universe. In their final stages the mergers are expected to be intense sources of gravitational waves.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 February 22 - Galaxy Group Hickson 31
Explanation: Will the result of these galactic collisions be one big elliptical galaxy? Quite possibly, but not for another billion years. Pictured above, several of the dwarf galaxies of in the Hickson Compact Group 31 are seen slowly merging. Two of the brighter galaxies are colliding on the far left, while an elongated galaxy above is connected to them by an unusual bridge of stars. Inspection of the above image further indicates that the bright duo trail a rope of stars pointing to the spiral galaxy on the far right. Most assuredly, the pictured galaxies of Hickson Compact Group 31 will pass through and destroy each other, millions of stars will form and explode, and thousands of nebula will form and dissipate before the dust settles and the final galaxy emerges about one billion years from now. The above image is a composite of images taken in infrared light by the Spitzer Space Telescope, ultraviolet light by the GALEX space telescope, and visible light by the Hubble Space Telescope. Hickson Compact Group 31 spans about 150 thousand light years and lies about 150 million light years away toward the constellation of Eridanus.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 July 16 - The Hercules Cluster of Galaxies
Explanation: These are galaxies of the Hercules Cluster, an archipelago of island universes a mere 500 million light-years away. Also known as Abell 2151, this cluster is loaded with gas and dust rich, star-forming spiral galaxies but has relatively few elliptical galaxies, which lack gas and dust and the associated newborn stars. The colors in this remarkably deep composite image clearly show the star forming galaxies with a blue tint and galaxies with older stellar populations with a yellowish cast. The sharp picture spans about 3/4 degree across the cluster center, corresponding to over 6 million light-years at the cluster's estimated distance. In the cosmic vista many galaxies seem to be colliding or merging while others seem distorted - clear evidence that cluster galaxies commonly interact. In fact, the Hercules Cluster itself may be seen as the result of ongoing mergers of smaller galaxy clusters and is thought to be similar to young galaxy clusters in the much more distant, early Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 April 26 - NGC 4676: When Mice Collide
Explanation: These two mighty galaxies are pulling each other apart. Known as "The Mice" because they have such long tails, each spiral galaxy has likely already passed through the other. They will probably collide again and again until they coalesce. The long tails are created by the relative difference between gravitational pulls on the near and far parts of each galaxy. Because the distances are so large, the cosmic interaction takes place in slow motion -- over hundreds of millions of years. NGC 4676 lies about 300 million light-years away toward the constellation of Bernice's Hair (Coma Berenices) and are likely members of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies. The above picture was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys which is more sensitive and images a larger field than previous Hubble cameras. The camera is scheduled to be serviced during the coming flight of Space Shuttle.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 April 7 The Colliding Spiral Galaxies of Arp 274
Explanation: Two galaxies are squaring off in Virgo and here are the latest pictures. When two galaxies collide, the stars that compose them usually do not. This is because galaxies are mostly empty space and, however bright, stars only take up only a small fraction of that space. But during the collision, one galaxy can rip the other apart gravitationally, and dust and gas common to both galaxies does collide. If the two galaxies merge, black holes that likely resided in each galaxy center may eventually merge. Because the distances are so large, the whole thing takes place in slow motion -- over hundreds of millions of years. Besides the two large spiral galaxies, a smaller third galaxy is visible on the far left of the above image of Arp 274, also known as NGC 5679. Arp 274 spans about 200,000 light years across and lies about 400 million light years away toward the constellation of Virgo.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 September 17 - MACSJ0025: Two Giant Galaxy Clusters Collide
Explanation: What happens when two of the largest objects in the universe collide? No one was quite sure, but the answer is giving clues to the nature of mysterious dark matter. In the case of MACSJ0025.4-1222, two huge clusters of galaxies have been found slowly colliding over hundreds of millions of years, and the result has been imaged by both the Hubble Space Telescope in visible light and the Chandra Space Telescope in X-ray light. Once the above visible image was recorded, the location and gravitational lens distortions of more distant galaxies by the newly combined galaxy cluster allowed astronomers to computationally determine what happened to the clusters' dark matter. The result indicates that this huge collision has caused the dark matter in the clusters to become partly separated from the normal matter, confirming earlier speculation. In the above combined image, dark matter is shown as the diffuse purple hue, while a smoothed depiction of the X-ray hot normal matter is shown in pink. MACSJ0025 contains hundreds of galaxies, spans about three million light years, and lies nearly six billion light years away (redshift 0.59) toward the constellation of Monster Whale (Cetus).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 September 2 - NGC 1316: After Galaxies Collide
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.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 July 21 - The Colliding Spiral Galaxies of Arp 271
Explanation: What will become of these galaxies? Spiral galaxies NGC 5426 and NGC 5427 are passing dangerously close to each other, but each is likely to survive this collision. Most frequently when galaxies collide, a large galaxy eats a much smaller galaxy. In this case, however, the two galaxies are quite similar, each being a sprawling spiral with expansive arms and a compact core. As the galaxies advance over the next tens of millions of years, their component stars are unlikely to collide, although new stars will form in the bunching of gas caused by gravitational tides. Close inspection of the above image taken by the 8-meter Gemini-South Telescope in Chile shows a bridge of material momentarily connecting the two giants. Known collectively as Arp 271, the interacting pair spans about 130,000 light years and lies about 90 million light-years away toward the constellation of Virgo. Quite possibly, our Milky Way Galaxy will undergo a similar collision with the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy in about five billion years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 May 6 - Galaxies Collide in NGC 3256
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.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 April 30 - Arp 272
Explanation: Linking spiral arms, two large colliding galaxies are featured in this Hubble Space Telescope view, part of a series of cosmic snapshots released to celebrate the Hubble's 18th anniversary. Recorded in astronomer Halton Arp's Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies as Arp 272, the pair is otherwise known as NGC 6050 and IC 1179. They lie some 450 million light-years away in the Hercules Galaxy Cluster. At that estimated distance, the picture spans over 150 thousand light-years. Although this scenario does look peculiar, galaxy collisions and their eventual mergers are now understood to be common, with Arp 272 representing a stage in this inevitable process. In fact, the nearby large spiral Andromeda Galaxy is known to be approaching our own galaxy and Arp 272 may offer a glimpse of the far future collision between Andromeda and the Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 April 27 - The Galactic Center Radio Arc
Explanation: What causes this unusual structure near the center of our Galaxy? The long parallel rays slanting across the top of the above radio image are known collectively as the Galactic Center Radio Arc and jut straight out from the Galactic plane. The Radio Arc is connected to the Galactic center by strange curving filaments known as the Arches. The bright radio structure at the bottom right likely surrounds a black hole at the Galactic center and is known as Sagittarius A*. One origin hypothesis holds that the Radio Arc and the Arches have their geometry because they contain hot plasma flowing along lines of constant magnetic field. Images from the Chandra X-ray Observatory appear to show this plasma colliding with a nearby cloud of cold gas.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 April 20 - Spiral Galaxies in Collision
Explanation: Billions of years from now, only one of these two galaxies will remain. Until then, spiral galaxies NGC 2207 and IC 2163 will slowly pull each other apart, creating tides of matter, sheets of shocked gas, lanes of dark dust, bursts of star formation, and streams of cast-away stars. Astronomers predict that NGC 2207, the larger galaxy on the left, will eventually incorporate IC 2163, the smaller galaxy on the right. In the most recent encounter that peaked 40 million years ago, the smaller galaxy is swinging around counter-clockwise, and is now slightly behind the larger galaxy. The space between stars is so vast that when galaxies collide, the stars in them usually do not collide.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 March 25 - Galaxy Wars: M81 versus M82
Explanation: On the left, surrounded by blue spiral arms, is spiral galaxy M81. On the right marked by red gas and dust clouds, is irregular galaxy M82. This stunning vista shows these two mammoth galaxies locked in gravitational combat, as they have been for the past billion years. The gravity from each galaxy dramatically affects the other during each hundred million-year pass. Last go-round, M82's gravity likely raised density waves rippling around M81, resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. But M81 left M82 with violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds so energetic the galaxy glows in X-rays. In a few billion years only one galaxy will remain.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 January 15 - Double Supernova Remnants DEM L316
Explanation: Are these two supernova shells related? To help find out, the 8-meter Gemini Telescope located high atop a mountain in Chile was pointed at the unusual, huge, double-lobed cloud dubbed DEM L316. The resulting image, shown above, yields tremendous detail. Inspection of the image as well as data taken by the orbiting Chandra X-Ray Observatory indicate how different the two supernova remnants are. In particular, the smaller shell appears to be the result of Type Ia supernova where a white dwarf exploded, while the larger shell appears to be the result of a Type II supernova where a massive normal star exploded. Since those two stellar types evolve on such different time scales, they likely did not form together and so are likely not physically associated. Considering also that no evidence exists that the shells are colliding, the two shells are now hypothesized to be superposed by chance. DEM L316 lies about 160,000 light years away in the neighboring Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) galaxy, spans about 140 light-years across, and appears toward the southern constellation of the Swordfish (Dorado).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 July 19 - The Hercules Cluster of Galaxies
Explanation: These are galaxies of the Hercules Cluster, an archipelago of island universes a mere 500 million light-years away. Also known as Abell 2151, this cluster is loaded with gas and dust rich, star-forming spiral galaxies but has relatively few elliptical galaxies, which lack gas and dust and the associated newborn stars. The colors in this remarkably deep composite image clearly show the star forming galaxies with a blue tint and galaxies with older stellar populations with a yellowish cast. The sharp picture spans about 1/2 degree across the cluster center, corresponding to over 4 million light-years at the cluster's estimated distance. In the cosmic vista many galaxies seem to be colliding or merging while others seem distorted - clear evidence that cluster galaxies commonly interact. In fact, the Hercules Cluster itself may be seen as the result of ongoing mergers of smaller galaxy clusters and is thought to be similar to young galaxy clusters in the much more distant, early Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 November 5 - A Galaxy Collision in NGC 6745
Explanation: Galaxies don't normally look like this. NGC 6745 actually shows the results of two galaxies that have been colliding for only hundreds of millions of years. Just off the above photograph to the lower right is the smaller galaxy, moving away. The larger galaxy, pictured above, used to be a spiral galaxy but now is damaged and appears peculiar. Gravity has distorted the shapes of the galaxies. Although it is likely that no stars in the two galaxies directly collided, the gas, dust, and ambient magnetic fields do interact directly. In fact, a knot of gas pulled off the larger galaxy on the lower right has now begun to form stars. NGC 6745 spans about 80 thousand light-years across and is located about 200 million light-years away.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 June 30 - The Antennae
Explanation: Some 60 million light-years away in the southerly constellation Corvus, two large galaxies have collided. But stars in the two galaxies - 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. Spanning about 500 thousand light-years, this stunning view 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. Recorded in this deep image of the region at the tip of the upper arc is a tidal dwarf galaxy NGC 4038S, formed in the cosmic debris.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 April 15 - Galaxy Wars: M81 versus M82
Explanation: In this stunning cosmic vista, galaxy M81 is on the left surrounded by blue spiral arms. On the right marked by massive gas and dust clouds, is M82. These two mammoth galaxies have been locked in gravitational combat for the past billion years. The gravity from each galaxy dramatically affects the other during each hundred million-year pass. Last go-round, M82's gravity likely raised density waves rippling around M81, resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. But M81 left M82 with violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds so energetic the galaxy glows in X-rays. In a few billion years only one galaxy will remain.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 January 8 - Arp 188 and the Tadpoles Tidal Tail
Explanation: In this stunning vista recorded with the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys, distant galaxies form a dramatic backdrop for disrupted spiral galaxy Arp 188, the Tadpole Galaxy. The cosmic tadpole is a mere 420 million light-years distant toward the northern constellation Draco. Its eye-catching tail is about 280 thousand light-years long and features massive, bright blue star clusters. One story goes that a more compact intruder galaxy crossed in front of Arp 188 - from left to right in this view - and was slung around behind the Tadpole by their gravitational attraction. During the close encounter, tidal forces drew out the spiral galaxy's stars, gas, and dust forming the spectacular tail. The intruder galaxy itself, estimated to lie about 300 thousand light-years behind the Tadpole, can be seen through foreground spiral arms at the upper left. Following its terrestrial namesake, the Tadpole Galaxy will likely lose its tail as it grows older, the tail's star clusters forming smaller satellites of the large spiral galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 November 22 - A Galactic Collision in Cluster Abell 1185
Explanation: What is a guitar doing in a cluster of galaxies? Colliding. Clusters of galaxies are sometimes packed so tight that the galaxies that compose them collide. A prominent example occurs on the left of the above image of the rich cluster of galaxies Abell 1185. There at least two galaxies, cataloged as Arp 105 and dubbed The Guitar for their familiar appearance, are pulling each other apart gravitationally. Most of Abell 1185's hundreds of galaxies are elliptical galaxies, although spiral, lenticular, and irregular galaxies are all clearly evident. Many of the spots on the above image are fully galaxies themselves containing billions of stars, but some spots are foreground stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy. Recent observations of Abell 1185 have found unusual globular clusters of stars that appear to belong only to the galaxy cluster and not to any individual galaxy. Abell 1185 spans about one million light years and lies 400 million light years distant.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 September 12 - The Colliding Galaxies of NGC 520
Explanation: Is this one galaxy or two? The jumble of stars, gas, and dust that is NGC 520 is now thought to incorporate the remains of two separate galaxies. A combination of observations and simulations indicate the NGC 520 is actually the collision of two disk galaxies. Interesting features of NGC 520 include an unfamiliar looking tail of stars at the image bottom and a perhaps more familiar looking band of dust running diagonally across the image center. A similar looking collision might be expected were our disk Milky Way Galaxy to collide with our large galactic neighbor Andromeda (M31). The collision that defines NGC 520 started about 300 million years ago and continues today. Although the speeds of stars are fast, the distances are so vast that the interacting pair will surely not change its shape noticeably during our lifetimes. NGC 520, at visual magnitude 12, has been noted to be one of the brightest interacting galaxies on the sky, after interacting pairs of galaxies known as the Antennae. NGC 520 was imaged above in spectacular fashion by the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, USA. Also known as Arp 157, NGC 520 lies about 100 million light years distant, spans about 100 thousand light years, and can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of the Fish (Pisces).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 April 27 - The Hercules Cluster of Galaxies
Explanation: These are galaxies of the Hercules Cluster, an archipelago of "island universes" a mere 650 million light-years distant. This cluster is loaded with gas and dust rich, star forming, spiral galaxies but has relatively few elliptical galaxies, which lack gas and dust and the associated newborn stars. Colors in the composite image show the star forming galaxies with a blue tint and ellipticals with a slightly yellowish cast. In this cosmic vista many galaxies seem to be colliding or merging while others seem distorted - clear evidence that cluster galaxies commonly interact. Over time, the galaxy interactions are likely to affect the the content of the cluster itself. Researchers believe that the Hercules Cluster is significantly similar to young galaxy clusters in the distant, early Universe and that exploring galaxy types and their interactions in nearby Hercules will help unravel the threads of galaxy andcluster evolution.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 April 4 - NGC 1316: After Galaxies Collide
Explanation: How did this strange-looking galaxy form? Astronomers turn detectives when trying to figure out the cause of unusual jumbles of stars, gas, and dust like NGC 1316. A preliminary inspection indicates that NGC 1316 is an enormous elliptical galaxy that includes dark dust lanes usually found in a spiral. The above image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows details, however, that help in reconstructing the history of this gigantic jumble. Close inspection finds fewer low mass globular clusters of stars toward NGC 1316's center. Such an effect is expected in galaxies that have undergone collisions or merging with other galaxies in the past few billion years. After such collisions, many star clusters would be destroyed in the dense galactic center. The dark knots and lanes of dust indicate that one or more of the devoured galaxies were spiral galaxies. NGC 1316 spans about 60,000 light years and lies about 75 million light years away toward the constellation of the Furnace.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 April 3 - The Galactic Center Radio Arc
Explanation: What causes this unusual structure near the center of our Galaxy? The long parallel rays slanting across the top of the above radio image are known collectively as the Galactic Center Radio Arc and jut straight out from the Galactic plane. The Radio Arc is connected to the Galactic center by strange curving filaments known as the Arches. The bright radio structure at the bottom right likely surrounds a black hole at the Galactic center and is known as Sagittarius A*. One origin hypothesis holds that the Radio Arc and the Arches have their geometry because they contain hot plasma flowing along lines of constant magnetic field. Recent images from the Chandra X-ray Observatory appear to show this plasma colliding with a nearby cloud of cold gas.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 March 1 - NGC 1531/2: Interacting Galaxies
Explanation: This dramatic image of an interacting pair of galaxies was made using 8-meter Gemini South telescope at Cerro Pachon, Chile. NGC 1531 is the background galaxy with a bright core just above center and NGC 1532 is the foreground spiral galaxy laced with dust lanes. The pair is about 55 million light-years away in the southern constellation Eridanus. These galaxies lie close enough together so that each feels the influence of the other's gravity. The gravitational tug-of-war has triggered star formation in the foreground spiral as evidenced by the young, bright blue star clusters along the upper edge of the front spiral arm. Though the spiral galaxy in this pair is viewed nearly edge-on, astronomers believe the system is similar to the face-on spiral and companion known as M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 November 21 - Spiral Galaxies in Collision
Explanation: Billions of years from now, only one of these two galaxies will remain. Until then, spiral galaxies NGC 2207 and IC 2163 will slowly pull each other apart, creating tides of matter, sheets of shocked gas, lanes of dark dust, bursts of star formation, and streams of cast-away stars. Astronomers predict that NGC 2207, the larger galaxy on the left, will eventually incorporate IC 2163, the smaller galaxy on the right. In the most recent encounter that peaked 40 million years ago, the smaller galaxy is swinging around counter-clockwise, and is now slightly behind the larger galaxy. The space between stars is so vast that when galaxies collide, the stars in them usually do not collide.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 June 12 - NGC 4676: When Mice Collide
Explanation: These two mighty galaxies are pulling each other apart. Known as "The Mice" because they have such long tails, each spiral galaxy has likely already passed through the other. They will probably collide again and again until they coalesce. The long tails are created by the relative difference between gravitational pulls on the near and far parts of each galaxy. Because the distances are so large, the cosmic interaction takes place in slow motion -- over hundreds of millions of years. NGC 4676 lies about 300 million light-years away toward the constellation of Coma Berenices and are likely members of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies. The above picture was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys which is more sensitive and images a larger field than previous Hubble cameras. The camera's increased sensitivity has imaged, serendipitously, galaxies far in the distance scattered about the frame.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 August 21 - X-Rays from M17
Explanation: About 5,000 light-years away, toward the constellation Sagittarius and the center of our galaxy, lies the bright star forming region cataloged as M17. In visible light, M17's bowed and hollowed-out appearance has resulted in many popular names like the Horseshoe, Swan, Omega, and Lobster nebula. But what has sculpted this glowing gas cloud? This Chandra Observatory image of x-rays from M17 provides a clue. Many massive young stars are responsible for the pink central region of the false-color x-ray picture, their colliding stellar winds producing the multimillion degree gas cloud which extends ten or so light-years to the left. When compared with visible light images, this x-ray hot cloud is partly surrounded by the nebula's cooler gas. In fact, having carved out a central cavity the hot gas seems to be flowing out of the horseshoe shape like champagne from an uncorked bottle ... suggesting yet another name for star forming region M17.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 August 12 - X-rays from Stephan's Quintet
Explanation: Stephan's Quintet is a picturesque but clearly troubled grouping of galaxies about 300 million light-years away toward the high-flying constellation Pegasus. Spanning over 200,000 light-years at that distance, this composite false-color image illustrates the powerful nature of this multiple galaxy collision, showing x-ray data from the Chandra Observatory in blue superposed on optical data in yellow. The x-rays from the central blue cloud running vertically through the image are produced by gas heated to millions of degrees by an energetic shock on a cosmic scale. The shock was likely the result of the interstellar gas in the large spiral galaxy, seen immediately to the right of the cloud, colliding with the quintet's tenuous intergalactic gas as this galaxy plunged through group's central regions. In fact, over billions of years, repeated passages of the group galaxies through the hot intergalactic gas should progressively strip them of their own star forming material. In this view, the large spiral galaxy just seen peeking above the bottom edge is an unrelated foreground galaxy a mere 35 million light-years distant.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 August 8 - Blue Stragglers in NGC 6397
Explanation: In our neck of the Galaxy stars are too far apart to be in danger of colliding, but in the dense cores of globular star clusters star collisions may be relatively common. In fact, researchers have evidence that the closely spaced blue stars near the center of the above image taken by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope were formed when stars directly collided. Pictured is the central region of NGC 6397, a globular cluster about 6,000 light-years distant, whose stars all formed at about the same time. NGC 6397's massive stars have long since evolved off the main sequence, exhausting their central supplies of nuclear fuel. This should leave the cluster with only old low mass stars; faint red main sequence stars and brighter blue and red giants. However, spectroscopic data show that the indicated stars, descriptively dubbed blue stragglers, are clearly main sequence stars which are too blue and too massive to still be there. Suggestively the stragglers appear to be two and occasionally three times as massive as the lower mass cluster stars otherwise present, supporting evidence for their formation from two and even three star collisions.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 May 21 - The Galactic Center Radio Arc
Explanation: What causes this unusual structure near the center of our Galaxy? The long parallel rays slanting across the top of the above radio image are known collectively as the Galactic Center Radio Arc and jut straight out from the Galactic plane. The Radio Arc is connected to the Galactic center by strange curving filaments known as the Arches. The bright radio structure at the bottom right likely surrounds a black hole at the Galactic center and is known as Sagittarius A*. One origin hypothesis holds that the Radio Arc and the Arches have their geometry because they contain hot plasma flowing along lines of constant magnetic field. Recent images from the Chandra X-ray Observatory appear to show this plasma colliding with a nearby cloud of cold gas.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 May 6 - NGC 4676: When Mice Collide
Explanation: These two galaxies are pulling each other apart. Known as "The Mice" because they have such long tails, each spiral galaxy has likely already passed through the other and will probably collide again and again until they coalesce. The long tails are created by the relative difference between gravitational pulls on the near and far parts of each galaxy. Scrolling right will show the very long tail of one of the galaxies. Because the distances are so large, the whole thing takes place in slow motion -- over hundreds of millions of years. NGC 4676 lies about 300 million light-years away toward the constellation of Coma Berenices and are likely members of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies. The above picture was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope's new Advanced Camera for Surveys which is more sensitive and images a larger field than previous Hubble cameras. The camera's increased sensitivity has imaged, serendipitously, galaxies far in the distance scattered about the frame.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 March 9 - A Quasar Portrait Gallery
Explanation: Quasars (QUASi-stellAR objects) lie near the edge of the observable Universe. Discovered in 1963, astronomers were astounded that such objects could be visible across billions of light-years, as this implies they must emit prodigious amounts of energy. Where does the energy come from? Many believe the quasar's central engine is a giant black hole fueled by tremendous amounts of infalling gas, dust, and stars. This gallery of quasar portraits from the Hubble Space Telescope offers a look at their local neighborhoods: the quasars themselves appear as the bright star-like objects with diffraction spikes. The images in the center and right hand columns reveal quasars associated with disrupted colliding and merging galaxies which should provide plenty of debris to feed a hungry black hole.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 November 13 - Disorder in Stephan's Quintet
Explanation: What are four closely grouped galaxies doing in this image? The grouping composes a majority of the large galaxies in Stephan's Quintet, with the fifth prominent galaxy located off the above image to the lower right. Three of these four galaxies show nearly the same redshift, indicating that they reside at the same distance from us. These three galaxies are in the midst a titanic collision, each ripping the others apart with gravitational tidal forces. The large bluish spiral below and left of center is a foreground galaxy much closer than the others and hence not involved in the cosmic battle. Most of Stephan's Quintet lies about 300 million light-years away towards the constellation of Pegasus.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 November 2 - A Galaxy Collision in NGC 6745
Explanation: Galaxies don't normally look like this. NGC 6745 actually shows the results of two galaxies that have been colliding for only hundreds of millions of years. Just off the above photograph to the lower right is the smaller galaxy, moving away. The larger galaxy, pictured above, used to be a spiral galaxy but now is damaged and appears peculiar. Gravity has distorted the shapes of the galaxies. Although it is likely that no stars in the two galaxies directly collided, the gas, dust, and ambient magnetic fields do interact directly. In fact, a knot of gas pulled off the larger galaxy on the lower right has now begun to form stars. NGC 6745 spans about 80 thousand light-years across and is located about 200 million light-years away.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 October 17 - Gemini North Images Bow Shock Near Galactic Center
Explanation: What's going on near the center of our Galaxy? Glowing across the electromagnetic spectrum, the center of our Milky Way Galaxy is thought to be home to massive stars, rotating gas rings, and a massive black hole. Now the central Galactic zoo just got larger. The 8-meter Gemini North telescope in Hawaii in its first scientific observation has just imaged the Galactic Center and revealed a star only three light years out colliding with gas and dust. The bow shock, similar to that caused by a boat moving through water, appears arrow-shaped and is visible on the upper right of the above photograph taken in representative infrared colors. Gemini's new flexible-mirror technology has imaged this structure, known as IRS8, in finer detail than ever before.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 July 22 - GLAST Gamma Ray Sky Simulation
Explanation: What shines in the gamma-ray sky? This simulated image models the intensities of gamma rays with over 40 million times the energy of visible light, and represents how the sky might appear to the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) after its first year in orbit. Familiar steady stars are absent from the dramatic 80x80 degree field which looks directly away from the center of the Galaxy. Instead, the Geminga and Crab pulsars - bizarre, spinning stellar corpses known to be neutron stars - are the two brightest gamma-ray sources. These and other gamma-ray bright objects in the field, monstrous active galaxies and still unknown sources, have been detected by the Energetic Gamma-Ray Experiment Telescope (EGRET) on the orbiting Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory. However, most of the simulated sources are new - extrapolating current ideas and anticipating discoveries resulting from GLAST's improved gamma-ray vision. The central broad band of faint gamma-ray emission is due to high-energy cosmic rays colliding with interstellar gas in the outer spiral arms of the Milky Way, while below is a diffuse energetic glow from prominent molecular clouds in Monoceros, Orion, Auriga, and Taurus. Intended to explore extreme environments in the distant cosmos and planned for launch in 2005, GLAST is under development by NASA, U.S., and international partners.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 June 22 - Blue Stragglers In NGC 6397
Explanation: In our neck of the Galaxy stars are too far apart to be in danger of colliding, but in the dense cores of globular star clusters star collisions may be relatively common. In fact, researchers have evidence that the row of six closely spaced blue stars just below the label in this Hubble Space Telescope image were formed when stars directly collided. Pictured is the central region of NGC 6397, a globular cluster about 6,000 light-years distant, whose stars all formed at about the same time. NGC 6397's massive stars have long since evolved off the main sequence, exhausting their central supplies of nuclear fuel. This should leave the cluster with only old low mass stars; faint red main sequence stars and brighter blue and red giants. However, spectroscopic data show that the indicated stars, descriptively dubbed blue stragglers, are clearly main sequence stars which are too blue and too massive to still be there. Suggestively the stragglers appear to be two and occasionally three times as massive as the lower mass cluster stars otherwise present, supporting evidence for their formation from two and even three star collisions.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 February 9 - Galaxy Wars: M81 Versus M82
Explanation: In the left corner, wearing a red nucleus surrounded by blue spiral arms, is M81. In the right corner, sporting light stars and dark dust lanes, is M82. These two mammoth galaxies have been locked in gravitational combat for the past billion years. The gravity from each galaxy dramatically affects the other during each hundred million-year pass. Last go-round, M82's gravity likely raised circulating density waves rippling around M81 resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. M81, though, left M82 a messy pulp of exploded stars and colliding gas so violent it emits bright X-rays. In both galaxies, colliding gas has created a recent abundance of bright new stars. In a few billion years only one galaxy will remain.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 21, 1999 - Elliptical Galaxy NGC 4881 in Coma
Explanation: Elliptical galaxies are unlike spiral galaxies and hence unlike our own Milky Way Galaxy. The giant elliptical galaxy named NGC 4881 on the upper left lies at the edge of the giant Coma Cluster of Galaxies. Elliptical galaxies are ellipsoidal in shape, contain no spiral arms, contain little interstellar gas or dust, and are found mostly in rich clusters of galaxies. Elliptical galaxies appear typically yellow-red, as opposed to spirals which have spiral arms that appear quite blue. Much speculation continues on how each type of galaxy can form, on whether ellipticals can evolve from colliding spirals, or spirals can be created from colliding ellipticals, or both. Besides the spiral galaxy on the right, all other images in this picture are of galaxies that lie well behind the Coma Cluster.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: September 6, 1999 - HCG 87: A Small Group of Galaxies
Explanation: Sometimes galaxies form groups. For example, our own Milky Way Galaxy is part of the Local Group of Galaxies. Small, compact groups, like Hickson Compact Group 87 (HCG 87) shown above, are interesting partly because they slowly self-destruct. Indeed, the galaxies of HCG 87 are gravitationally stretching each other during their 100-million year orbits around a common center. The pulling creates colliding gas that causes bright bursts of star formation and feeds matter into their active galaxy centers. HCG 87 is composed of a large edge-on spiral galaxy visible on the lower left, an elliptical galaxy visible on the lower right, and a spiral galaxy visible near the top. The small spiral near the center might be far in the distance. Several stars from our Galaxy are also visible in the foreground. The above picture was taken in July by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. Studying groups like HCG 87 allows insight into how all galaxies form and evolve.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: July 22, 1999 - Cosmic Collisions in a Galaxy Cluster
Explanation: Hundreds of galaxies appear as faint smudges of light in this Hubble Space Telescope picture of galaxy cluster MS1054-03. Eight billion light-years away, the cluster is among the most distant known clusters of galaxies and is now reported to contain the largest number of colliding galaxies ever found in a cluster. Examples of these truly cosmic collisions are shown in the insets at the right. Disrupted by gravitational effects, the colliding galaxies are thought to merge over a billion years or so to form larger galaxies - a theory of galaxy formation which seems to be borne out by these results. Though galaxy collisions appear to have occurred much more frequently in the distant, early Universe, they are still seen to happen in the nearby, "close-to-present" Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: May 25, 1999 - NGC 6872: A Stretched Spiral
Explanation: What makes NGC 6872 so long? Measuring over 700,000 light years across from top to bottom, NGC 6872 is one of the largest barred spiral galaxies known. The galaxy's elongated shape might have something to do with its continuing collision with the smaller galaxy IC 4970, visible just above center. Of particular interest is NGC 6872's spiral arm on the upper left, as pictured above, which exhibits an unusually high amount of blue star forming regions. The light we see today left these colliding giants before the days of the dinosaurs, about 300 million years ago. NGC 6872 is visible with a small telescope in the constellation of Pavo.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 12, 1998 - GLAST Gamma Ray Sky Simulation
Explanation: This simulated image models the intensities of gamma rays with over 40 million times the energy of visible light, and represents how the sky might appear to the proposed Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) after its first year in orbit. Familiar steady stars are absent from the dramatic 80x80 degree field which looks directly away from the center of the Galaxy. Instead, the Geminga and Crab pulsars - bizarre, spinning stellar corpses known to be neutron stars - are the two brightest gamma-ray sources. These and other bright objects in the field, dense pulsars, monstrous active galaxies, and still unknown sources, have been detected by the Energetic Gamma-Ray Experiment Telescope (EGRET) on the orbiting Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory. However, most of the simulated point sources are new - extrapolating current ideas and anticipating discoveries resulting from GLAST's improved gamma-ray vision. The central broad band of faint gamma-ray emission is due to high-energy cosmic rays colliding with interstellar gas in the outer spiral arms of the Milky Way, while below is a diffuse energetic glow from prominent molecular clouds in Monoceros, Orion, Auriga, and Taurus. Intended to explore the most extreme energy sources in the distant cosmos and planned for launch in 2005, the GLAST mission is under development by NASA and a collaboration of U. S. and international partners.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: August 27, 1998 - Hercules Galaxies
Explanation: These are galaxies of the Hercules Cluster, an archipelago of "island universes" a mere 650 million light-years distant. This cluster is loaded with gas and dust rich, star forming, spiral galaxies but has relatively few elliptical galaxies, which lack gas and dust and the associated newborn stars. Colors in the composite image show the star forming galaxies with a blue tint and ellipticals with a slightly yellowish cast. In this cosmic vista many galaxies seem to be colliding or merging while others seem distorted - clear evidence that cluster galaxies commonly interact. Over time, the galaxy interactions are likely to affect the the content of the cluster itself. Researchers believe that the Hercules Cluster is significantly similar to young galaxy clusters in the distant, early Universe and that exploring galaxy types and their interactions in nearby Hercules will help unravel the threads of galaxy and cluster evolution.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: August 18, 1998 - APM 08279+5255: The Brightest Object Yet Known
Explanation: It shines with the brightness of 100 billion Suns. Is it a mirage? The recently discovered quasar labeled APM 08279+5255 has set a new record as being the brightest continuously emitting object yet known. APM 08279+5255's great distance, though, makes it only appear as bright as magnitude 15.2, an object which can be seen with a moderate sized telescope. It is the quasar's extreme redshift of 3.87 that places it far across our universe, and implies a truly impressive energy output. One possible explanation of APM 08279+5255's record luminosity is that it is partly a mirage: its light is highly magnified by an intervening galaxy that acts as a gravitational lens. Alternatively, APM 08279+5255 might be the most active known center of an intriguing class of colliding galaxies rich in gas and dust.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: January 10, 1998 - Disorder in Stephan's Quintet
Explanation: What are five closely grouped galaxies doing in this image? The grouping is commonly known as Stephan's Quintet. Four of the galaxies show essentially the same redshift suggesting that they are at the same distance from us. The large bluish spiral below and left of center actually has a smaller redshift than the others, indicating it is much closer. It is probably a foreground object which happens to lie along the line of sight to the more distant galaxies. Of the four distant galaxies, three seem to be colliding, showing serious distortions due to gravitational tidal forces. The fourth is a normal appearing elliptical galaxy (at the lower right edge of the field). Recent results suggest that collisions play an important role in the life cycles of galaxies.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: December 6, 1997 - A Quasar Portrait Gallery
Explanation: QUASARs (QUASi-stellAR objects) lie near the edge of the observable Universe. Discovered in 1963, astronomers were astounded that such objects could be visible across billions of light-years, as this implies they must emit prodigious amounts of energy. Where does the energy come from? Many believe the quasar's central engine is a giant black hole fueled by tremendous amounts of infalling gas, dust, and stars. This gallery of quasar portraits from the Hubble Space Telescope offers a look at their local neighborhoods: the quasars themselves appear as the bright star-like objects with diffraction spikes. The images in the center and right hand columns reveal quasars associated with disrupted colliding and merging galaxies which should provide plenty of debris to feed a hungry black hole.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: October 27, 1997 - Closeup of Antennae Galaxy Collision
Explanation: It's a clash of the titans. Two galaxies are squaring off in Corvus and here are the latest pictures. When two galaxies collide, however, the stars that compose them usually do not. This is because galaxies are mostly empty space and, however bright, stars only take up only a small amount of that space. But during the slow, hundred million year collision, one galaxy can rip the other apart gravitationally, and dust and gas common to both galaxies does collide. In the above wreckage, dark dust pillars mark massive molecular clouds, which are being compressed during the galactic encounter, causing the rapid birth of millions of stars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: October 22, 1997 - The Antennae Galaxies
Explanation: A ground-based telescopic view (left) of the collision between the galaxies NGC4038 and NGC4039 reveals long arcing insect-like "antennae" of luminous matter flung from the scene of the accident. Investigators using the Hubble Space Telescope to sift through the cosmic wreckage near the two galaxy cores have recently announced the discovery of over a thousand bright young clusters of stars - the result of a burst of star formation triggered by the collision. The green outline shows the area covered by the higher resolution Hubble image (right). At the distance of the Antennae galaxies (about 63 million light-years), a pixel in this image corresponds to about 15 light-years. Dust clouds around the two galactic nuclei give them a dimmed and reddened appearance while the massive, hot, young stars of the newly formed clusters are blue. How do colliding galaxies evolve with time? Determining the ages of star clusters formed in galaxy collisions can provide significant clues. The Antennae galaxies are seen in the southerly constellation Corvus.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: August 31, 1997 - Arp 230: Two Spirals in One?
Explanation: Is this one galaxy or two? Analysis of Arp 230 has shown evidence that this seemingly single spiral galaxy is actually the result of the recent collision of two spiral galaxies. The slow motion collision took place over about 100 million years and induced a burst of star formation that has begun to subside. The collision apparently had many similarities to the colliding galaxy sequence in the IMAX movie "Cosmic Voyage."

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: July 26, 1997 - M81 in True Color
Explanation: Here's is a spiral galaxy in true colors. Previously, M81 was shown in two colors only, but M81's real colors are just as dramatic. In the above picture, note how blue the spiral arms are - this indicates the presence of hot young stars and on-going star formation. Also note the yellow hue of the nucleus, indicating am ancient population of stars many billions of years old. M81 is actually a dominant member of a group of galaxies which includes M82 and several other galaxies. Unlike our Local Group of galaxies, large galaxies in the M81 group are actually colliding. It is possible that M81's interaction with M82 create the density waves which generate M81's spiral structure.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: June 17, 1997 - Arp 220: Spirals in Collision
Explanation: Arp 220 is the brightest object in the local universe. But why does it shine so brightly? Arp 220 was cataloged as a peculiar galaxy in the 1960s. In the late 1980s, it was discovered to be an ultraluminous infrared galaxy and headed a list compiled from observations with the now-defunct IRAS satellite. New observations with the Hubble Space Telescope are quite revealing. Photos by NICMOS in the infrared taken in April and released just last week now better resolve the two colliding spiral galaxies at the center of Arp 220. A result of this spiral collision are fantastic knots of new star formation visible as the bright spots on the above photograph. Below the "half-moon" shaped knot on the right is a massive disk of dust possibly hiding a dying spiral's central black hole. The bright knot to the left is the center of the other broken spiral galaxy. The galaxy cores are about 1200 light years apart and are orbiting each other.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: June 2, 1997 - Bright Star Knots in NGC 4038
Explanation: This galaxy is having a bad millennium. In fact, the past 100 million years haven't been so good, and probably the next billion or so should be quite tumultuous. NGC 4039 was a normal spiral galaxy, minding its own business, when NGC 4038 crashed into it. The evolving wreckage, known as the "Antennae", is pictured above. As gravity pulls each galaxy apart, clouds of gas slam into each other and bright blue knots are formed. These knots are large clusters of stars imbedded in vast regions of ionized hydrogen gas. The high abundance of relatively dim star clusters is quite unlike our Milky Way's globular cluster system, though. Perhaps some of these young star clusters will go on to form globular clusters, while others will disperse through close gravitational encounters. The above picture is centered around the larger of the two interacting galaxies: NGC 4038. The diagonal streak across the upper left is unrelated to the colliding galaxies. The color contrast in the above three-color mosaic was chosen to highlight extended features.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: December 13, 1996 - Disorder in Stephan's Quintet
Explanation: Five closely grouped galaxies are visible in this image made using the Kitt Peak National Observatory 2.1 meter telescope. The grouping is commonly known as Stephan's Quintet. Four of the galaxies show essentially the same redshift suggesting that they are at the same distance from us. The large bluish spiral below and left of center actually has a smaller redshift than the others, indicating it is much closer. It is probably a foreground object which happens to lie along the line of sight to the more distant galaxies. Of the four distant galaxies, three seem to be colliding, showing serious distortions due to gravitational tidal forces. The fourth is a normal appearing elliptical galaxy (at the lower right edge of the field). Recent results suggest that collisions play an important role in the life cycles of galaxies.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 25, 1996 - A Quasar Portrait Gallery
Explanation: QUASARs (QUASi-stellAR objects) lie near the edge of the observable Universe. Discovered in 1963, astronomers were astounded - to be visible at such extreme distances of billions of light-years they must emit prodigious amounts of energy. Where does the energy come from? Many believe the quasar's central engine is a giant black hole fueled by tremendous amounts of infalling gas, dust, and stars. This recently released gallery of quasar portraits from the Hubble Space Telescope offers a look at their local neighborhoods: the quasars themselves appear as the bright star-like objects with diffraction spikes. The images in the center and right hand columns reveal quasars associated with disrupted colliding and merging galaxies which should provide plenty of debris to feed a hungry black hole. Yet, in the left hand column a quasar is seen at the center of an otherwise normal looking spiral (above) and elliptical galaxy. Whatever the secret of the quasar's energy, all these sites must provide fuel for its central engine.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 6, 1996 - Elliptical Galaxy NGC 4881 in Coma
Explanation: Elliptical galaxies are unlike spiral galaxies and hence unlike our own Milky Way Galaxy. The giant elliptical galaxy named NGC 4881 on the upper left lies at the edge of the giant Coma Cluster of Galaxies. Elliptical galaxies are ellipsoidal in shape, contain no spiral arms, contain little interstellar gas or dust, and are found mostly in rich clusters of galaxies. Elliptical galaxies appear typically yellow-red, as opposed to spirals which have spiral arms that appear quite blue. Much speculation continues on how each type of galaxy can form, on whether ellipticals can evolve from colliding spirals, or spirals can be created from colliding ellipticals, or both. Besides the spiral galaxy on the right, all other images in this picture are of galaxies that lie well behind the Coma Cluster.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: August 24, 1996 - Why is QSO 1229+204 so Bright?
Explanation: What causes the center of this barred spiral galaxy to light up brighter than almost anything in the universe? The quasar there is a good fraction of the way across our observable universe but appears so bright that astronomers had to use the high resolving power of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) just to see the host galaxy. HST then resolved something very interesting. Not only was QSO 1229+204 at the core of an unusual barred spiral galaxy, but this galaxy was in the process of colliding with a dwarf galaxy. Gas from this collision quite possibly fuels a supermassive black hole causing QSO 1229+204 to shine so brightly.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: August 22, 1996 - Arp 230: Two Spirals in One?
Explanation: Is this one galaxy or two? Analysis of Arp 230 has shown evidence that this seemingly single spiral galaxy is actually the result of the recent collision of two spiral galaxies. The slow motion collision took place over about 100 million years and induced a burst of star formation that has begun to subside. The collision apparently had many similarities to the colliding galaxy sequence in the IMAX movie "Cosmic Voyage."

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: July 14, 1996 - M81 in True Color
Explanation: Here's what a spiral galaxy REALLY looks like. Yesterday, M81 was shown in two colors only, but here we see M81 at its most colorful. In the above picture, note how blue the spiral arms are - this indicates the presence of hot young stars and on-going star formation. Also note the yellow hue of the nucleus, possibly designating a population of older stars many billions of years old. M81 is actually a dominant member of a group of galaxies which includes M82 and several other galaxies. Unlike our Local Group of galaxies, large galaxies in the M81 group are actually colliding. It is possible that M81's interaction with M82 create the density waves which generate M81's spiral structure.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: January 15, 1996 - The Dawn of the Clusters
Explanation: What did the universe look like near the beginning? This exciting photo by the Hubble Space Telescope is one of the deepest ever taken, and shows galaxies as far away as ever before photographed. The universe back then - when only one third of its present age - was a strange and violent place. Back then a large fraction of galaxies were colliding and interacting. In fact, the shapes of many galaxies in the above photo are more distorted than most nearby galaxies. At this early universe epoch many clusters of galaxies were just forming. The bright twisted group of galaxies below the photographs center contains the energetic radio galaxy 3C324.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 15, 1995 - A Quintet of Galaxies
Explanation: Five closely grouped galaxies are visible in this image made using the Kitt Peak National Observatory 2.1 meter telescope. The grouping is commonly known as Stephan's Quintet. Four of the galaxies show essentially the same redshift suggesting that they are at the same distance from us. The large bluish spiral below and left of center actually has a smaller redshift than the others, indicating it is much closer. It is probably a foreground object which happens to lie along the line of sight to the more distant galaxies. Of the four distant galaxies, three seem to be colliding, showing serious distortions due to gravitational tidal forces. The fourth is a normal appearing elliptical galaxy (at the lower right edge of the field). Recent results suggest that collisions play an important role in the life cycles of galaxies.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: October 22, 1995 - A Quasar-Galaxy Collision?
Explanation: In 1963 astronomers were astounded to discover that certain faint, star-like objects have very large redshifts. The large redshifts imply that these objects, now known as quasars (QUASi-stellAR objects), lie near the edge of the observable Universe. To be visible at such extreme distances of billions of light years, they must emit tremendous amounts of energy. Where does the energy come from? In the most widely accepted model, a quasar is the bright nucleus of an active galaxy powered by a central, supermassive black hole. This Hubble Space Telescope image shows a quasar known as PKS 2349 (the star-like object near the center) and a galaxy (surrounding fuzzy patch), but the quasar is not at the galaxy's center! In fact, the galaxy and quasar seem to be colliding or merging. This and other recent HST observations suggest that astronomers' standard ideas about quasars may be wrong.


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