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  sci-tech > space > story pagecorner  

Hubble image shows brush of majestic galaxies

galaxy

November 4, 1999
Web posted at: 11:42 a.m. EST (1642 GMT)

(CNN) -- Two spiral galaxies pass by each other like cosmic ships in the night, nearly colliding, in this image taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and its Wide Field Planetary Camera 2.

Strong tidal forces from NGC 2207, at left, the larger and more massive galaxy, have distorted the shape of galaxy IC 2163, at right, flinging out stars and gas into long streamers stretching out a hundred thousand light-years toward the right-hand edge of the image, the Space Telescope Science Institute said in a statement.

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The galaxies are located in the direction of the constellation Canis Major.

The high resolution of the Hubble telescope image reveals dust lanes in the spiral arms of NGC 2207, clearly silhouetted against IC 2163, which is in the background. Hubble also reveals a series of parallel dust filaments extending like fine brush strokes along the tidally stretched material on the right-hand side.

The large concentrations of gas and dust in both galaxies may well erupt into regions of active star formation in the near future, scientists at the Institute said.

Trapped in their mutual orbit around each other, the two galaxies will continue to distort and disrupt each other. Eventually, billions of years from now, they will merge into a single, more massive galaxy. It is believed that many present-day galaxies, including the Milky Way, were assembled from a similar process of coalescence of smaller galaxies occurring over billions of years, according to the Institute.

This Heritage image was created from data gathered by Hubble on May 25, 1996, and November 11, 1998.

The Hubble Heritage project is an initiative of the Space Telescope Science Institute to release on the Internet every month a new image from an archive of more than 130,000 Hubble images originally made and stored for scientific research.



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