Between black holes devouring small stars and vacant space surrounding bustling, glowing nebulae, the caverns of darkness in our universe are often relieved by glimmers of light. Such a poetic juxtaposition is perfectly apparent in one of the latest images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
Last week, the agency released an ethereal view of galactic triplet Arp 248, also known as the Wild’s Triplet to the discoverer and the utterly outlandish nature of the show itself. See.
In this flawless photo, two of the three galaxies can be seen in the foreground of the void of space, bleeding into each other as if made of over-hydrated watercolor paint and forming what I can only describe as a intergalactic bridge. A third, unconnected realm looms in the distance, surrounded by tiny deceptive sparkles that represent cosmic life likewise. After galaxies scattered in the universe.
What’s particularly mind-numbing about this image is that from Hubble’s perspective – in Earth’s orbit, some 200 million light-years away – the three galaxies are compact enough to fit on our computer screens. .
In reality, these worlds are several (many) light-years across, containing an incomprehensible amount of look-alikes to our sun, exoplanets like all eight of our solar system, and moons similar to our bright lunar companion.
They are miniature universes in themselves, existing on a scale simply unfathomable to the human mind, but available for download as wallpapers.
It is, in fact, because of this heavy content that the two massive spirals in the center of this image are linked by a luminous bridge in the first place. Both harness extremely strong gravitational forces and so pull each other as if playing a gentle tug of war, accidentally creating what is called a tidal tail, or an elongated stream of stars. and iridescent interstellar dust.
Tidal tails are usually the product of galaxies very close to each other as they are on their way to merging into one huge galaxy. We’ve seen these jaw-dropping phenomena many times before – tidal tails are also responsible for some adorable galactic system names.
“The Mice”, or NGC 4676, boasts merging galaxies about 300 million light-years from Earth, and “The Tadpole”, or UGC 10214, contains a large galaxy tearing apart a smaller galaxy , another type of event that resulted in an impressive tail tide.
Even our Milky Way galaxy is currently on a collision course with Andromeda, which means it could eventually generate some sort of intergalactic bridge as well – but don’t worry.
The gap between stars and planets within galaxies is much larger than you might think.
When galaxies merge, chances are that only a few real collisions occur. Think of two large crowds entering a stadium, merging into one massive crowd. Most of the time, individuals do not literally jostle each other. They just sit close to each other. Now imagine the same situation, except that there is about a light year of space between each person.
Fascinatingly, the title “Arp” in Arp 248 comes from the surname of the late astronomer Halton Arp, who, along with astronomer Barry Madore, created the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies in 1966.
“Each collection contains a menagerie of spectacularly peculiar galaxies, including interacting galaxies such as Arp 248, as well as one- and three-armed spiral galaxies, galaxies with shell-like structures, and a variety of other spatial oddities. “, NASA said of the atlas.
It is a vast work filled with other examples of our wonderfully contrasting universe, an expanse constructed from the mind of a poet and condensed with the skill of a machine.
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