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Exploring the Antennae

Exploring the Antennae

Copyright: Bernard Miller

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.

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