NASA Releases Stunning Hubble Photo Of Two Galaxies Caught In A Dance

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Even though James Webb is in place and ready to begin observations this summer, Hubble is still going strong. The nearly 30-year-old space telescope recently captured two galaxies caught in a dance. NASA shared the image this week and space enthusiasts will want to see it for themselves.

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Hubble captured two galaxies locked in a dance

Two galaxies locked in a dance

Two galaxies locked in a dance

The two galaxies pictured in the image above are NGC 3227 and NGC 3226. The duo is more collectively known as Arp 94 and can be found between 50 and 60 million light-years away from Earth. While you can’t see it particularly well in the image, there are faint streams of gas and dust that have the two galaxies locked in a dance with each other.

It’s a spectacular image and just another reminder of how many unique galaxy formations there are. NASA says that Hubble captured the images as part of a study on measuring the masses of black holes. The idea was to measure the mass of black holes in galaxies by observing the dynamics of the gas in the center.

You can see Galaxy NGC 3227 on the left. It is a massive spiral galaxy known as the Seyfert galaxy. Like our own galaxy, the Milky Way, it has a supermassive black hole at its center. On the right is NGC 3226, an elliptical galaxy that NASA believes previously cannibalized a third galaxy in the area.

Although these two galaxies are locked in a dance, there is also interest in star formation in NGC 3226.

The confusing science of making stars

hubble photo

hubble photo

Based on everything we know; NASA says that NGC 3226 should be creating new stars. That’s because all the energy and debris from the previous galaxy is fed directly from it. But, according to a 2014 study, that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

Even when the two galaxies are locked in a dance, and NGC 3226 is constantly feeding off that old energy, its rate of star formation is very low. Instead, it appears that the material falling into NGC 3226 is colliding with other galactic gas. As such, NASA says it’s shutting down new star formation rather than fueling it.

It’s an interesting find and only raises more questions about how galaxies form new stars. NASA believes that NGC 3226 is currently transitioning from a younger, more active galaxy known as a “blue” galaxy to an older “red” galaxy.

NASA plans to continue studying this “galactic dance” for more clues about the transition from younger to older galaxies. And, the folks at NASA’s Herschel Science Center believe that one day it could start forming stars again.

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