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Hubble: Tentacles of Galactic Doom!

Posted: 10/30/07 01:52 PM ET

The Hubble Space Telescope never disappoints. The latest is a spectacular image of two galaxies in a near hit:

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These two galaxies are named NGC 3808A (the face-on spiral on the right) and NGC 3808B (the edge-on cigar-shaped galaxy on the left; the third, smaller edge-on galaxy is probably well in the background). A hundred or more million years ago -- while dinosaurs still walked around on Earth -- these two galaxies swept past each other at hundreds of miles per second. Gravity from 3808B drew off a long tentacle of stars, gas, and dust from 3808A, which then wrapped around and began to orbit the center of 3808B.

In a higher-resolution image (click the picture above to get access to much, much better images) you can actually see the dust and gas wrapped around the edge-on galaxy at least twice! It's a phenomenal display of the elegance and beauty of the dance of gravity writ large.

The near-collision caused clouds of gas to collapse in both galaxies, forming new stars. This can be seen in 3808A as bright blobs of blue light -- newly-born massive stars are hotter and bluer, lighting up the gas around them.

Sometimes, it's all too easy to get wrapped up in our daily affairs here on Earth. There are important issues here, to be sure -- but sometimes, it's nice to remember that there's a whole Universe out there, filled to overflowing with grace and stunning beauty.