Sorry Charlie Brown, NASA‘S The Hubble Space Telescope is considering the best that could be described as “The Bigger Pumpkin”, which looks like a Halloween ornament nestled in a starry sky. What looks like two glowing eyes and a curled, carved smile is a snapshot of the early stage of the collision between two galaxies. The entire scene is nearly 109,000 light-years across, approximately in diameter Galaxy.
The overall pumpkin color corresponds to the glow of old red stars in the two galaxies, classified as NGC 2292 and NGC 2293, with only a slight spiral structure. Yet the smile is a bit green due to the newborn star clusters, spreading like pearls on a necklace, along the newly formed dusty arm. Glowing eyes are the concentration of stars around a pair of supermassive black holes. The scattering of the blue foreground stars makes the “pumpkin” look like a sparkle for Halloween party.
What’s going on in this pair of pumpkins?
If you mix two fried eggs together, you get something like a scrambled egg. The same goes for intergalactic collisions throughout the universe. They lose their flattened spiral discs and the dislodged stars enter a soccer ball-shaped space, forming an elliptical galaxy. But this pair of interactions is a very rare example of what could make a larger fried egg – the building of a giant spiral galaxy. It may depend on the specific trajectory that the pair of colliding galaxies is following. Astronomers say encounters must be rare because there are only a handful of other examples in the universe.
Scary Halloween with Hubble! What looks like two glowing eyes and a curved, engraved smile is an early stage snapshot of the collision between two galaxies. This new image is just one of the spooky scenes that Hubble has captured in space. Image provider: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
The spooky arm that creates a “smile” may just be the beginning of the rebuilding process of a spiral galaxy, researchers say. The arm embraces both galaxies. It is most likely formed when interstellar gas is compressed when the two galaxies begin to merge. Higher densities precipitate new star formation.
The dynamic duo is hidden 120 million light-years away in the constellation Canis Major, so it is seen behind the starry foreground plane of our galaxy Milky Way. Hence, this is an area where it is difficult to accurately identify distant background galaxies from the many stars seen in the field.
Galaxies are similar to objects tagged by the Galaxy Zoo citizen science project, where volunteers hunt for quirky-looking galaxies. Astronomer William Keel, of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, has included some of these in the Hubble program “The Gem of the Galactic Zoo”, which is observing some rare types of galaxies in the short distance between Hubble observations according to different schedules. Images via Hubble give new details about the close meeting.
Keel speculates that the pair’s final fate will be to merge into a giant glowing spiral galaxy like UGC 2885, Rubin’s Galaxy, which is twice the diameter of our own. Hubble has captured snapshots of the groundbreaking early stages of galactic molting.
The Hubble Space Telescope is an international collaboration between NASA and ESA (the European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Management Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts scientific operations on Hubble. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Astronomical Research Universities in Washington, DC