Thursday, July 1, 2021

Two interesting colliding galaxies

NGC 5426 and NGC 5427 are two very similar galaxies that are slowly getting closer. The system, known as Arp 271, is located 120 million light years away from Earth in the constellation Virgo.

Arp 271 has been studied extensively by astronomers as it is in the early stages of interaction. Systems of this type are in fact very rare, since most of the time they are observed in the course of more advanced phases.

The spiral shapes of the two galaxies have not yet been distorted by their mutual gravitational attractions. The only sign that they are interacting is the bridge of gas and stars that connect their spiral arms.

At present it is not even possible to say for sure whether the two galaxies will collide. It is in fact possible that they pass by: in this case their shapes would be distorted, but they would not merge into a single galaxy.

Arp 271 was also studied for another reason: the two galaxies in fact resemble the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy in terms of structure and size. The interaction that NGC 5426 and NGC 5427 are undergoing could in fact be similar to that which the two galaxies of the Local Group will encounter in about 5 billion years.

Credit: Juan Carlos Muñoz / ESO.

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