Wednesday August 23rd 2017

Illusion of a Galactic Collision

Free News Press – Scientists say that an image showing two galaxies overlapping is not a collision but a trick of perspective (see the image). Rather than colliding, the NGC 3314A and B galaxies are incredibly far apart.

Comparing the image to other known crashes between galaxies, astronomers at the European Space Agency (ESA) say 3314A and 3314B are very far apart – ten times the distance between the Milky Way and its closest neighbor. Scientists also say NGC 3314A is closer to the Milky Way than NGC 3314B, and the two are tens of millions of light-years from each other.

The galaxies are also traveling independently and NGC 3314A is warped because of the forces of a large galaxy nearby. The neighboring galaxy is out of the Hubble Telescope’s field of view in this particular image.

So what tipped the astronomers off that the two galaxies were not crashing together? Both should have deformed long before the collision.

NGC 3314 A is also making the dust lanes of NGC 3314B appear lighter. The dust is lightened by the bright fog of stars in the foreground. Plus, the dust lanes of A are being backlit by the light of B.

The image is a study in gravitational microlensing (GM). The phenomenon occurs when stars of one galaxy cause small perturbations in the light coming from a more distant one.

To acquire such a stunning image, scientists left the aperture open on the Hubble’s Advance Camera for Surveys telescope for more than an hour. The field of view was larger than the image provided and included many other galaxies in the background.

Image courtesy of NASA and ESA

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