A Pending Merger?


The giant elliptical galaxy M60 and the spiral galaxy NGC 4647 make an odd couple Hubble Space Telescope image. They’re found in a region of space where galaxies tend to gather, on the eastern side of the nearby Virgo Galaxy Cluster. About 54 million light-years away, M60’s simple egg-like shape about 120,000 light-years across is created by its randomly swarming older stars. NGC 4647’s young blue stars, gas and dust are an organized spiral, winding arms rotating in a flattened disk spanning 90,000 light-years. It’s about the same size as our galaxy, the Milky Way. NGC 4647 is more distant than M60, around 63 million light-years from Earth. The pair of galaxies which is known as Arp116 may be close enough to be on the verge of a significant gravitational encounter.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

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