Imaged by the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, the galaxies NGC 5394 (the smaller one, on the right) and NGC 5395 (the larger one, on the left) are in the middle of colliding over the span of millions of years.
It can take millions of years for galaxies to collide. One such ambling encounter is between the galaxies NGC 5394 and NGC 5395.
According to astronomers, the pair, which is around 160 million light-years away from Earth, has collided at least once. Because the stars in each galaxy are so far apart, any stellar collisions are extremely unlikely. However, the collision may have generated turbulent motions in the galaxies’ gases, triggering additional bursts of star formation.
New star formation appears in the spiral arms of both galaxies as reddish aggregates in this new view from the Gemini Observatory’s telescope in Hawaii.
During the collision, the galaxies gravitationally pull on one other, warping their shapes. This galaxy pair has been nicknamed the “Heron Galaxy” because of its shape. The larger galaxy is thought to symbolize the bird’s body, while the smaller galaxy is said to depict the bird’s head and beak.
Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is also colliding with its nearest large neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). The merger will change the structure of both galaxies billions of years from now, resulting in a new arrangement of stars known as Milkomeda (“milk-AHM-mee-da”). The night sky will be drastically altered as a result of the merger. But into what, exactly?
Currently, the Milky Way’s thin disk of stars and gas appears as a nebulous strip arching across the summer sky. As Andromeda grazes the Milky Way, a second lane of stars will join the one that presently graces the night sky.
Using data from the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists have developed this simulation of the head-on collision of our Milky Way galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy. Estimated to occur in 4 billion years.