Astronomers see many things when they stare into deep space with the Hubble telescope, but this is not – despite appearances – an otherworldly creature with a piercing gaze.
Each “eye” is in fact the bright core of a galaxy – one of which slammed into the other – and the outline of the “face” is a ring of young blue stars. Other clumps of new stars form a nose and mouth.
The entire system, captured by the Hubble Telescope, is catalogued as Arp-Madore 2026-424 and it resides 704 million light-years from Earth.
Arp-Madore 1 is a globular cluster visible in the constellation Horologium, located 123.3 kiloparsecs (402,000 light-years) away from Earth. It is one of the most distant known globular clusters of the Milky Way galaxy’s halo; its distance gives it interest as a test case for gravitational theories. It is named after Halton Arp and Barry F. Madore, who identified it as a distant globular cluster in 1979, using the UK Schmidt Telescope, after previous researchers at the European Southern Observatory had observed its existence but not its classification. – from Wikipedia
NASA says galaxy collisions are common, but head-ons, such as this, are not. The violent encounter gave the system its arresting “ring” structure, which will last for only a short amount of time – about 100 million years.
The bulges make the eyes appear to be the same size, which is evidence the two galaxies were of roughly equal proportions. In more common collisions, small galaxies are gobbled up by their larger neighbours.
Related reading: The Hubble Constant is constantly perplexing
Curated content from the editorial staff at Cosmos Magazine.