Herschel Space Observatory Finds Galaxy Mega Merger

Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UC Irvine/STScI/Keck/NRAO/SAO

Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UC Irvine/STScI/Keck/NRAO/SAO

A massive and rare merging of two galaxies has been spotted in images taken by the Herschel space observatory, a European Space Agency mission with important NASA participation.

Follow-up studies by several telescopes on the ground and in space, including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope, tell a tale of two faraway galaxies intertwined and furiously making stars. Eventually, the duo will settle down to form one super-giant elliptical galaxy.

The findings help explain a mystery in astronomy. Back when our universe was 3 billion to 4 billion years old, it was populated with large reddish elliptical-shaped galaxies made up of old stars. Scientists have wondered whether those galaxies built up slowly over time through the acquisitions of smaller galaxies, or formed more rapidly through powerful collisions between two large galaxies.

The new findings suggest massive mergers are responsible for the giant elliptical galaxies.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-171
Also: http://news.uci.edu/press-releases/fragile-mega-galaxy-is-missing-link-in-history-of-cosmos/
Also: http://keckobservatory.org/news/fragile_mega_galaxy_is_missing_link_in_history_of_cosmos

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