NASA’s Hubble Captures Breathtaking Image of Intergalactic Bridge
Between black holes devouring small stars and empty space surrounding crowded, bursting nebulae, caves of darkness in our universe are often illuminated by glimpses of light. Such a poetic juxtaposition is evident in one of NASA’s latest Hubble Space Telescope images.
Last week, the agency released an ethereal rendition of galactic triplet Arp 248, also known as Wild’s Triplet for both the discoverer and the utterly extravagant nature of the spectacle itself. See.
In this immaculate photograph, two of the three galaxies can be seen in the foreground of the void of space, merging as if made from overhydrated watercolors, forming what I can only describe as an intergalactic bridge. A third, disconnected realm stands in the far ground, shrouded in deceptively small sparks that spark a cosmic life of even Lake galaxies scattered across the universe.
What’s especially mind-numbing about this image is that from Hubble’s vantage point — in Earth’s orbit, some 200 million light-years away — the three galaxies are compact enough to fit on our computer screens.
In reality, these worlds are many (many) light-years wide and contain an incomprehensible amount of doppelgängers to our sun, exoplanets like the eight of our solar system, and moons related to our glowing lunar companion.
They are miniature universes in their own right, existing on a scale simply unfathomable to the human mind and yet available for us to download as a desktop wallpaper.
In fact, it is because of this hefty content that the two massive spirals at the center of this image are primarily connected by a luminous bridge. Both use extremely strong gravitational forces and therefore pull at each other as if they were playing a gentle tug-of-war, accidentally creating a so-called tidal tail, or a elongated stream of stars and iridescent interstellar dust.
Tide tails are usually the product of galaxies coming very close together as they move to merge into one massive galaxy. We’ve seen the breathtaking phenomena several times — tidal tails are also responsible for some cute galaxy names.
“The mice” or NGC 4676, shows off merging galaxies about 300 million light-years away from Earth, and “the tadpole,” or UGC 10214, contains a large galaxy in the process of shredding a smaller galaxy, another type of event that resulted in an awe-inspiring tidal tail.
The void between stars and planets within galaxies is much bigger than you might think.
When galaxies merge, they are probably only a few factual collisions happen. Think of two large crowds entering a stadium and blending into one huge crowd. Usually individuals would not literally bump into each other. They just nest near each other. Now imagine the same situation, except with about a light year of space between each person.
“Each collection contains a menagerie of spectacularly idiosyncratic galaxies, including interacting galaxies like Arp 248, as well as one- or three-armed spiral galaxies, galaxies with shell-like structures and a variety of other quirks in space,” NASA said of the atlas.
It is a vast work filled with yet more examples of our beautifully contrasting universe, an expanse constructed from the mind of a poet and condensed with the skill of a machine.
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