Saturday, January 11, 2014

Astronomy Picture of the Day: 01/11/14 - NGC 1316

When two galaxies collide, the aftereffects are typically noticeable to any outside onlookers (the tad pole galaxies and the Mice galaxies are two notable examples). However, the aftereffects are generally not nearly as peculiar as what we see here, with this unusual galaxy. NGC 1316 (its formal designation) is located about 75 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Fornax. This jumbled mess of a galaxy spans about 60,000 light-years across - making it much smaller than our home galaxy of the Milky Way - yet it contains exponentially more gas and dust, which give life to new stars.

Astronomers have deduced that this unique looking galaxy is actually an elliptical galaxy of epic proportions, but by a strange twist of fate, it just so happens to have the dark dust (or knot) lanes typically attributed to spiral galaxies -- suggesting that one or more of the galaxies absorbed by NGC 1316 were spiral in nature. Similarly, more evidence was uncovered to suggest that NGC 1316 is the result of several celestial collisions. This evidence comes in the form of several low-mass globular clusters found lurking within the vicinity of NGC 1316"s central region (yes, it has one). Many of the stars that inhabit the cluster still bear the scars of the long-ended mergers, especially as far as distribution is concerned.

Sources & Further Reading:

Image Credit: P. Goudfrooij (STScI), Hubble Heritage Team, (STScI/AURA), ESA, NASA

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