Look into my eyes

Something big is staring back at Hubble.

NASA, ESA, J. Dalcanton, B.F. Williams, and M. Durbin (University of Washington)

Astronomers see many things when they stare into deep space, 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 Space Telescope, is catalogued as Arp-Madore 2026-424 and it resides 704 million light-years from Earth.

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.

  1. http://www.nasa.gov/hubble
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