Galaxy NGC 1277 (image)

Hubble captures new image of two colliding galaxies

This galaxy is nearly in the center of the Perseus cluster and is 240 million light years away from our galaxy. The galaxy in the upper part of the image contains very pronounced tidal tails - long, extended ribbons of gas, dust and stars.

For the last 10 billion years, NGC 1277 has remained unchanged - a relic of an earlier time in galactic evolution.

Astronomers have put NASA's Hubble Space Telescope on an Indiana Jones-type quest to uncover an ancient "relic galaxy" in our own cosmic backyard. This presents astronomers with an unprecedented opportunity.

The relic galaxy houses twice as many stars as the Milky Way, but it is physically as small as one quarter the size of our galaxy.

The telltale sign of the galaxy's "arrested development" lies in the ancient globular clusters that swarm around it. But it's development stopped suddenly when it ran out of stellar material.

The researchers first started looking for relic galaxies using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-one of the largest and most detailed astronomical surveys of the universe ever conducted. They have been helped by so many contributors over the years and desire to now return the favor to other Canadian Homsteading readers.

The Hubble space telescope has captured stunning images of two galaxies merging some 350 million light-years away from Earth. The galaxy is unique in that it is considered a relic of what galaxies were like in the early universe.

The lenticular galaxy is what's known as a "red and dead" galaxy. The red clusters are believed to form as the galaxy forms, while the blue clusters are later brought in as smaller satellites are swallowed by the central galaxy. "I've been studying globular clusters in galaxies for a long time, and this is the first time I've ever seen this", said Michael Beasley, also of the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias.

NGC 1277 is surrounded by other galaxies from which it could steal new material, but the latest Hubble findings show it is moving too fast to merge with other galaxies or acquire significant amounts of debris. The astronomers explain that this is because NGC 1277 is moving so fast through its region of the universe (2 million miles per hour) that it can not merge with smaller satellite galaxies, starving itself of the outside material required to power new star formation.

Most galaxies feature both red globular clusters, full of metal-rich stars, and blue clusters, globs of metal-poor stars.

The two galaxies still have massive new stellar nurseries that are churning out hot new stars owing to the massive gravitational interactions, which stir up interstellar gas and dust out of which stars are born.

Everything in the universe comes with an expiration date.

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