Space is brutal.
In a vivid cosmic image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, two galaxies are shown after what is almost certainly a dramatic deep space collision. On right is the dazzling galaxy NGC 2445, surrounded by vivid bursts of star formation. On left is the less brilliant, but still powerful NGC 2444.
“Astronomers suggest that the galaxies passed through each other, igniting the uniquely shaped star-formation firestorm in NGC 2445, where thousands of stars are bursting to life on the right-hand side of the image,” NASA explained.
Yes, they struck each other, but then, like apparitions, traveled through one another (over millions of years). The ancient impact stoked those vivid outer bands of stellar activity around NGC 2445.
“Simulations show that head-on collisions between two galaxies is one way of making rings of new stars,” astronomer Julianne Dalcanton of the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Astrophysics in New York and the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a statement.
This galactic collision left a “weird” aftermath, explained Dalcanton. There’s an uncanny triangle of star formation, as opposed to a ring, around the galaxy NGC 2445. That’s because the galaxy NGC 2444 still has ample mass and is tugging on the galaxy NGC 2445.
“So they’re not completely free of each other yet, and their unusual interaction is distorting the ring into this triangle,” said Dalcanton.
You can spot this tugging in action. Between the two galaxies is a bridge of “taffy-like strands of gas,” notes NASA. The galaxy NGC 2444 is ripping mass from NGC 2445.
The cosmic evolution — collisions, transformation, and birth — continues apace.