NASA has released a stunning new image snapped by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope of a quartet of galaxies called Hickson Compact Group 31.
Compact galaxy groups represent some of the densest concentrations of galaxies known in the Universe, making them perfect labs for studying weird and wonderful phenomena.
Hickson Compact Groups (HCGs) in particular, as classified by Canadian astronomer Prof Paul Hickson in the 1980s, are numerous, and are thought to contain an unusually high number of galaxies with strange properties and behaviors.
HCG 31 resides approximately 166 million light-years away in the constellation of Eridanus.
“Dwarf galaxy encounters are normally seen billions of light-years away, and therefore occurred billions of years ago, but HCG 31 is located some 166 million light-years from Earth, relatively close by cosmic standards,” Hubble astronomers said.
“The new Hubble image emphasizes star-forming regions spurred by the quartet’s gravitational dance.”
“The color blue represents visible blue light and showcases young, hot, blue stars, while the color red represents near-infrared light.”
HCG 31 consists of four interacting dwarf galaxies.
“The bright, distorted clump of young blue-white stars (top-right of center) is NGC 1741,” the researchers said.
“Although it appears to be a single galaxy, NGC 1741 is actually a pair of colliding dwarf galaxies.”
“Another dwarf, cigar-shaped galaxy to the pair’s right joins their dance with a thin, blue stream of stars that connects the trio.”
“HGC 31’s fourth member is revealed by a stream of young blue stars that point to the galaxy (bottom-left of center) and indicate its interaction with the other three.”
“The bright object in the center of the image is a star situated between Earth and HCG 31.”
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