Munich, March 17 (ANI): The European Southern Observatory's (ESO's) Very Large Telescope has taken the best image ever of a strange and chaotic duo of interwoven galaxies.
Known as Arp 261, the pair of galaxies has been imaged in more detail than ever before using the FORS2 instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope.
The image proves to contain several surprises.
Arp 261 lies about 70 million light-years distant in the constellation of Libra, the Scales.
Its chaotic and very unusual structure is created by the interaction of two galaxies that are engaged in a slow motion, but highly disruptive close encounter.
Although individual stars are very unlikely to collide in such an event, the huge clouds of gas and dust certainly do crash into each other at high speed, leading to the formation of bright new clusters of very hot stars that are clearly seen in the picture.
The paths of the existing stars in the galaxies are also dramatically disrupted, creating the faint swirls extending to the upper left and lower right of the image.
Both interacting galaxies were probably dwarfs not unlike the Magellanic Clouds orbiting our own galaxy.
The images used to create this picture were not actually taken to study the interacting galaxies at all, but to investigate the properties of the inconspicuous object just to the right of the brightest part of Arp 261 and close to the centre of the image.
This is an unusual exploding star, called SN 1995N, that is thought to be the result of the final collapse of a massive star at the end of its life, a so-called core collapse supernova. (ANI)