Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A Curious Pair of Galaxies

18.03.2009
The ESO Very Large Telescope has taken the best image ever of a strange and chaotic duo of interwoven galaxies. The images also contain some surprises — interlopers both far and near.

Sometimes objects in the sky that appear strange, or different from normal, have a story to tell and prove scientifically very rewarding. This was the idea behind Halton Arp’s catalogue of Peculiar Galaxies that appeared in the 1960s.

One of the oddballs listed there is Arp 261, which has now been imaged in more detail than ever before using the FORS2 instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. The image proves to contain several surprises.

Arp 261 lies about 70 million light-years distant in the constellation of Libra, the Scales. Its chaotic and very unusual structure is created by the interaction of two galaxies that are engaged in a slow motion, but highly disruptive close encounter. Although individual stars are very unlikely to collide in such an event, the huge clouds of gas and dust certainly do crash into each other at high speed, leading to the formation of bright new clusters of very hot stars that are clearly seen in the picture. The paths of the existing stars in the galaxies are also dramatically disrupted, creating the faint swirls extending to the upper left and lower right of the image. Both interacting galaxies were probably dwarfs not unlike the Magellanic Clouds orbiting our own galaxy.

The images used to create this picture were not actually taken to study the interacting galaxies at all, but to investigate the properties of the inconspicuous object just to the right of the brightest part of Arp 261 and close to the centre of the image. This is an unusual exploding star, called SN 1995N, that is thought to be the result of the final collapse of a massive star at the end of its life, a so-called core collapse supernova. SN 1995N is unusual because it has faded very slowly — and still shows clearly on this image more than seven years after the explosion took place! It is also one of the few supernovae to have been observed to emit X-rays. It is thought that these unusual characteristics are a result of the exploding star being in a dense region of space so that the material blasted out from the supernova ploughs into it and creates X-rays.

Apart from the interacting galaxy and its supernova the image also contains several other objects at wildly different distances from us. Starting very close to home, two small asteroids, in our Solar System between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, happened to cross the images as they were being taken and show up as the red-green-blue trails at the left and top of the picture. The trails arise as the objects are moving during the exposures and also between the exposures through different coloured filters. The asteroid at the top is number 14670 and the one to the left number 9735. They are probably less than 5 km across. The reflected sunlight from these small bodies takes about fifteen minutes to get to the Earth.

The next closest object is probably the apparently bright star at the bottom. It may look bright, but it is still about one hundred times too faint to be seen with the unaided eye. It is most likely a star rather like the Sun and about 500 light-years from us — 20 million times further away than the asteroids. Arp 261 itself, and the supernova, are about 140 000 times further away again than this star, but still in what astronomers would regard as our cosmic neighbourhood. Much more distant still, perhaps some fifty to one hundred times further away than Arp 261, lies the cluster of galaxies visible on the right of the picture. There is no doubt, however, that a much more remote object lies, unrecognised, amongst the faint background objects seen in this marvellous image.

Contact
Henri Boffin
ESO education and Public Outreach Department
Phone: +49 89 3200 6222
E-mail: hboffin (at) eso.org
ESO Press Officer in Chile: Valentina Rodriguez - +56 2 463 3123 - vrodrigu@eso.org

Dr. Henri Boffin | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.eso.org
http://www.eso.org/public/outreach/press-rel/pr-2009/pr-11-09.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts
28.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Researchers create artificial materials atom-by-atom
28.03.2017 | Aalto University

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Transport of molecular motors into cilia

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones

28.03.2017 | Information Technology

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>