ESO astronomers have released an absolutely beautiful photo taken by the FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph 2 (FORS2) instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) of an eye-catching pair of colliding unbarred spiral galaxies: NGC 4567 and NGC 4568.
This image shows two spiral galaxies: NGC 4567 (left) and NGC 4568 (right). The color image was made from separate exposures taken in the visible and near-infrared regions of the spectrum with the FORS2 instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. It is based on data obtained through four filters. The color results from assigning different hues to each monochromatic image associated with an individual filter. Image credit: ESO.
Nicknamed the Butterfly Galaxies and the Siamese Twins, these galaxies are beginning to collide and merge into each other.
“Galaxy collisions are not unusual in the Universe,” ESO astronomers said.
“We may imagine them to be violent and catastrophic, but in reality they are surprisingly peaceful, like a waltz performed by stars, gas and dust, choreographed by gravity.”
“This kind of collision and merger is also thought to be the eventual fate of the Milky Way, which scientists believe will undergo a similar interaction with our neighboring galaxy Andromeda.”
The new image of the NGC 4567-NGC 4568 system was captured by the FORS2 instrument, which is mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in the Chilean Andes.
“FORS2 is often nicknamed Paranal’s ‘Swiss Army knife’ for its incredible versatility, and it’s in fact one of our most demanded instruments,” the researchers said.
“Besides capturing images like this one it can also take spectra of up to several tens of cosmic objects simultaneously, or study polarized light.”
“This image was created as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems program, an outreach initiative to produce images of interesting, intriguing or visually attractive objects using ESO telescopes, for the purposes of education and public outreach,” they added.
“The program makes use of telescope time that cannot be used for science observations.”
“All data collected may also be suitable for scientific purposes, and are made available to astronomers through ESO’s science archive.”