November 3, 2008

A "perfect ten" for the Hubble Space Telescope

Arp 147
Image: NASA

A few weeks after the Hubble Space Telescope went into sleep mode, due to an electrical malfunction, it came back with a marvelous photo of two adjacent galaxies, resembling a number "10". The image came just a few days after the telescope resumed scientific observations, and the camera has been proven to show that it has been working exactly like it was before the telescope entered sleep mode.

The pair of galaxies featured, Arp 147, have many interesting features. The galaxy on the right is blue, indicating an area of intense star formation. The shape and the position of the two galaxies is due to the galaxy currently on the left passing through the one on the right, creating a ripple effect starting from the point of impact. The outer material moving in due to the increased gravitational pull of the two galaxies collided with the this ripple traveling outwards. The shock and dense gas created with this collision resulted in the increased amount of star production.

The galaxy on the left passed through this collision nearly unscathed, with the exception being the ring of starlight surrounding it. The bright red object in the bottom left corner of the image is thought to be the nucleus of the galaxy that was hit.

Besides the interesting subject of the image, the Hubble has recently been suffering numerous problems. The last servicing mission for the famous telescope was originally scheduled for February. It has now been delayed to May, since a spare part for fixing this current problem will not be ready for February.

50th post for Astronomy and Space!

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