The new image shows two tangled galaxies, named “The Antennae Galaxies” due to the long, antenna-like arms seen in wide-angle views of the system. NASA astronomers studied the collision, and concluded it began more than 100 million years ago and is still occurring. According to various studies, it has triggered the formation of millions of stars in clouds of dusts and gas in the galaxies. The most massive of these young stars have already sped through their evolution in a few million years and exploded as supernovas.
Each imaging device provided different kinds of data. For instance, using data retrieved by Spitzer, astronomers observed infrared light from warm dust clouds heated by newborn stars, with the brightest clouds lying in the overlap region between the two galaxies. The Hubble data revealed old stars and star-forming regions in gold and white, while filaments of dust appear in brown. Many of the fainter objects in the optical image are clusters containing thousands of stars.
The Chandra X-ray Observatory showed huge clouds of hot, interstellar gas; assumptions are that is has been injected with rich deposits of elements from supernova explosions. This enriched gas, which includes elements such as oxygen, iron, magnesium and silicon, will be incorporated into new generations of stars and planets. The bright, point-like sources in the image are produced by material falling onto black holes and neutron stars that are remnants of the massive stars. Theories are that some of these black holes may have masses that are almost one hundred times that of our sun.
Although the new image – created using multiple devices – provides much data regarding the Antennae Galaxies, NASA hopes that future research will give astronomers even more information regarding stellar phenomena.
TFOT has also covered the dramatic change in one of the most active black holes, observed by NASA’s Suzaku telescope, the features of the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the imaging of new tidal galactic-debris, related to the Antennae Galaxies.
For more information about NASA’s latest image of the Antennae Galaxies, see the official press release.