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An encounter image taken between two spiral galaxies (NGC 2207 and IC2163) by the Hubble telescope


An encounter image taken between two spiral galaxies (NGC 2207 and IC2163) by the Hubble telescope

The Hubble Telescope has captured an image of two spiral galaxies moving toward each other that researchers believe will merge into each other in the future, following a near-collision of these two galaxies. The image was captured by the Hubble Telescope’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. The researchers named these galaxies NGC 2207 and IC2163, with the more massive NGC 2207 galaxy on the left in the Hubble heritage image, and the smaller IC 2163 galaxy on the right of the image.

NGC 2207 is an intermediate spiral galaxy whose center band exhibits a weak inner ring structure, and IC 2163 is also a barred spiral galaxy, also exhibiting an elongated spiral arm with a weak inner ring, and this arm spans a million light-years, with gas in its long streams. Hubble has also revealed a series of dust filaments, you can see on the right-hand side of the image, that are tidally spread out like fine brush strokes with material, the researchers say, that appear in both galaxies. Large concentrations of gas and dust could erupt in areas of active star formation in the near future.

A computer simulation performed by the team led by Bruce and Debra Elmegreen, in which the team had to determine the timing of the galactic collision, led the researchers to calculate that IC 2163 was swinging in a counterclockwise direction behind NGC 2207. The researchers say that the sheer size of NGC 2207 and the gravity of IC 2163 are difficult to escape, because IC 2163 does not have enough energy to escape the gravitational pull of NGC 2207.

The presence of gas and dust in both galaxies could play a major role in the formation of new stars in the near future, and the high resolution of the Hubble Telescope image reveals the presence of dust and gas in the spiral arms of NGC 2207. These two galaxies trapped in their own mutual orbits will continue to distort and disrupt each other, and eventually, billions of years later, they will merge into one giant galaxy after a time.