YouTube/Hubble Space Telescope
The full collision of spiral galaxy NGC 2207 and its smaller counterpart IC 2163 will last another several million years, but it’s well underway already. And the staff at the Hubble Space Telescope just released a detailed look at the collision using a number of different tools, showing the slow-speed crash in visible light, X-ray, infrared, and all together.
See it below:
While this video comes from Hubble’s official website, that particular space telescope technically only took the first image in visible light. The X-ray view comes from a different space telescope called the Chandra X-ray Observatory, while the infrared view comes from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Hubble is far from the only camera in Earth’s orbit.
Beyond simply looking cool, these other ways of viewing the collision reveal some interesting things about the stars in these galaxies. The infrared view reveals a large amount of cosmic dust, which is a crucial ingredient in forming new stars.
And like any galactic collision, the resulting mess will become a “stellar nursery”, where large amounts of new stars will form all at once from the materials being tossed around. This is already beginning to happen – by looking at the collision through an X-ray view, we can already see areas of intense star formation underway.
Both NGC 2207 and IC 2163 are spiral galaxies here, but they’re expected to take on a completely new shape once the collision is complete.
Of course, we won’t be around to see it, although hopefully some future astronomers will get to have a good look.