Galactic Ghoul

The Hubble image of AM 2026-424 was taken June 19, 2019, in visible light by the Advanced Camera for Surveys.

Some of us hope that when we peer deep into space that someone might be looking back at us. They don’t want to be alone in the universe.  I’m not sure we would expect the “galactic ghoul” pictured here.

This image from the Hubble Space Telescope is a head-on collision between two galaxies. Each “eye” is the bright core of a galaxy. The outline of the face is a ring of young blue stars, and other clumps of new stars form a nose and mouth. The two central bulges of stars from both galaxies make the eyes appear to be the same size, which is evidence that the two galaxies are of nearly equal proportions. It is more common for there to be collisions where small galaxies are gobbled up by their larger neighbors.

Galaxy collisions are common but most of them are not head-on. Humans love to see humans in non-human things.  Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics, emotions, and behaviors to animals or other non-human things. That includes objects, plants, supernatural beings, Winnie the Pooh,  Simba in The Lion King and the Little Engine That Could.

So this Hubble Space Telescope image with those uncanny glowing eyes looking at us from an otherworldly “face.”

The galaxy collision that likely created this system gives the system a “ring” structure. Ring galaxies are rare. There are only a few hundred of them in our cosmic neighborhood. The galaxies will merge completely in about 1 to 2 billion years.

Can you grasp any of this? As much as I read about the vastness of space, these kinds of photos and stories still seem incomprehensible to me. This system resides 704 million light-years from Earth. I can’t imagine what that really means.

Published by

Ken Ronkowitz

A lifelong educator. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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