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> Hubble Photographs Cosmic Fountain
Hubble Photographs Cosmic Fountain
SPACE.com Tue Apr 21, 9:48 am ET
To commemorate almost two decades of photographing the wonders of the universe, the Hubble Space Telescope captured an image of a peculiar group of interacting galaxies that contains a "cosmic fountain" of stars, gas and dust that stretches over 100,000 light years.
Over the past 19 years, Hubble has taken many images of galactic collisions and close encounters.
The new image of a trio of galaxies, called Arp 194, looks as if of the galaxies has sprung a leak. The bright blue streamer seen in the image is really a stretched spiral arm full of newborn blue stars. This stellar activity typically happens when two galaxies interact and gravitationally tug at each other.
Hubble's resolution shows clearly that the stream of material lies in front of the southern component of Arp 194, as shown by the dust that is silhouetted around the star cluster complexes.
Resembling a pair of owl's eyes, the two nuclei of the colliding galaxies can be seen in the process of merging at the upper left of the image. The bizarre blue bridge of material extending out from the northern component looks as if it connects to a third galaxy but in reality this galaxy is in the background and not connected at all.
The details of the interactions among the multiple galaxies that make up Arp 194 are complex. The system was most likely disrupted by a previous collision or close encounter. The shapes of all the galaxies involved have been distorted by their gravitational interactions with one another.
Arp 194, located in the constellation of Cepheus, resides approximately 600 million light-years away from Earth. Arp 194 is one of thousands of interacting and merging galaxies known in our nearby Universe.
The new picture was issued to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, a joint NASA/ESA venture, aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1990. The last planned servicing of the telescope is scheduled for May. Hubble has made more than 880,000 observations and snapped over 570,000 images of 29,000 celestial objects over the past 19 years.