- Press Release
- August 8, 2022
Galactic Collision Lights Up The Darkness
Though it resembles a peaceful rose swirling in the darkness of the cosmos, NGC 3256 is actually the site of a violent clash.
This distorted galaxy is the relic of a collision between two spiral galaxies, estimated to have occurred 500 million years ago. Today it is still reeling in the aftermath of this event.
Located about 100 million light-years away in the constellation of Vela (The Sails), NGC 3256 is approximately the same size as our Milky Way and belongs to the Hydra-Centaurus Supercluster. It still bears the marks of its tumultuous past in the extended luminous tails that sprawl out around the galaxy, thought to have formed 500 million years ago during the initial encounter between the two galaxies, which today form NGC 3256. These tails are studded with young blue stars, which were born in the frantic but fertile collision of gas and dust.
When two galaxies merge, individual stars rarely collide because they are separated by such enormous distances, but the gas and dust of the galaxies do interact — with spectacular results. The brightness blooming in the center of NGC 3256 gives away its status as a powerful starburst galaxy, host to vast amounts of infant stars born into groups and clusters. These stars shine most brightly in the far infrared, making NGC 3256 exceedingly luminous in this wavelength domain. Because of this radiation, it is classified as a Luminous Infrared Galaxy.
Credit: NASA/ESA Larger image