Chance Alignment Between Galaxies Mimics a Cosmic Collision

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orin stepanek
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Chance Alignment Between Galaxies Mimics a Cosmic Collision

Post by orin stepanek » Thu Jun 14, 2012 3:51 pm

https://hubblesite.org/contents/news-re ... 12-29.html

ABOUT THIS IMAGE:

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows a rare view of a pair of overlapping galaxies, called NGC 3314. The two galaxies look as if they are colliding, but they are actually separated by tens of millions of light-years, or about ten times the distance between our Milky Way and the neighboring Andromeda galaxy. The chance alignment of the two galaxies, as seen from Earth, gives a unique look at the silhouetted spiral arms in the closer face-on spiral, NGC 3314A.

The motion of the two galaxies indicates that they are both relatively undisturbed and that they are moving in markedly different directions. This indicates they are not on any collision course. NGC 3314A's warped shape is likely due to an encounter with another nearby galaxy, perhaps the large spiral galaxy NGC 3312 (located outside the Hubble image).

Because of the alignment, NGC 3314B's dust lanes appear lighter than those of NGC 3314A. This is not because that galaxy lacks dust, but rather because its dust lanes are lightened by the bright fog of stars in the foreground. NGC 3314A's dust, in contrast, is backlit by the stars of NGC 3314B, silhouetting them against the bright background.

The color composite was produced from exposures taken in blue and red light with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. The pair of galaxies lie roughly 140 million light-years from Earth, in the direction of the southern hemisphere constellation Hydra.

For additional information, contact:

Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
410-338-4514
villard@stsci.edu

Zolt Levay
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
410-338-4907
levay@stsci.edu

Oli Usher
ESA-Hubble, Garching, Germany
011-49-89-3200-6855
ousher@eso.org

Object Names: NGC 3314, NGC 3314A, NGC 3314B

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and W. Keel (University of Alabama)
Last edited by bystander on Mon Nov 08, 2021 2:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Updated links
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Re: Chance Alignment Between Galaxies Mimics a Cosmic Collis

Post by bystander » Thu Jun 14, 2012 9:48 pm

Aligned Galaxies NGC 3314
Hubble Heritage Release | 2012 June 14

A Trick of Perspective — Chance Alignment Mimics a Cosmic Collision
ESA/HEIC Hubble Photo Release | 2012 June 14
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has produced a highly detailed image of a pair of overlapping galaxies called NGC 3314. While the two galaxies look as if they are in the midst of a collision, this is in fact a trick of perspective: the two just happen to appear in the same direction from our vantage point.

NGC 3314A and B might look like they are in the midst of a galactic pile-up, but they are in fact separated by tens of millions of light years of void. Their apparent proximity is simply a trick of perspective.

How do we know this? The biggest hint as to whether galaxies are interacting is usually their shapes. The immense gravitational forces involved in galactic mergers are enough to pull a galaxy out of shape long before it actually collides. Deforming a galaxy like this does not just warp its structure, but it can trigger new episodes of star formation, usually visible as bright blue stars and glowing nebulae.

In the case of NGC 3314, we do indeed see deformation in the foreground galaxy (called NGC 3314A, NGC 3314B lies in the background), but this is almost certainly misleading. NGC 3314A’s deformed shape, particularly visible below and to the right of the core, where streams of hot blue-white stars extend out from the spiral arms, is not due to interaction with the galaxy in the background.

Studies of the motion of the two galaxies indicate that they are both relatively undisturbed, and that they are moving independently of each other. This indicates in turn that they are not, and indeed have never been, on any collision course. NGC 3314A’s warped shape is likely due instead to an encounter with another galaxy, perhaps nearby NGC 3312 (visible to the north in wide-field images) or another nearby galaxy.

The chance alignment of the two galaxies is more than just a curiosity, though. It greatly affects the way the two galaxies appear to us.

NGC 3314B’s dust lanes, for example, appear far lighter than those of NGC 3314A. This is not because that galaxy lacks dust, but rather because they are lightened by the bright fog of stars in the foreground. NGC 3314A’s dust, in contrast, is backlit by the stars of NGC 3314B, silhouetting them against the bright background.

Such an alignment of galaxies is also helpful to astronomers studying gravitational microlensing, a phenomenon that occurs when stars in one galaxy cause small perturbations in the light coming from a more distant one. Indeed, the observations of NGC 3314 that led to this image were carried out in order to investigate this phenomenon.

This mosaic image covers a large field of view (several times the size of an individual exposure from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys). Thanks to a long exposure time of more than an hour in total exposure time for every frame, the image shows not only NGC 3314, but also many other more distant galaxies in the background.

The colour composite was produced from exposures taken in blue and red light.

Zoomable Image

Cosmic Collision Is Just a Trick of the Eye
Science Shot | Govert Schilling | 2012 June 14

Hubble Captures ‘Fake’ Cosmic Collision
Universe Today | Nancy Atkinson | 2012 June 14

Galaxy pair look like foes but have never met
New Scientist | Short Sharp Science | 2012 June 14
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Ann
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Re: Chance Alignment Between Galaxies Mimics a Cosmic Collis

Post by Ann » Fri Jun 15, 2012 5:19 am

Orin, I like that you post new Hubble releases for us! :D

Bystander, you post all kinds of new images for us all the time, of course.

Ann
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