Saturday, December 23, 2006

Spaced out Sundays - a celestial celebration

This stunning close-up of 3 of the 5 galaxies comprising Stephan’s Quintet resembles delicate silver Christmas tree balls encrusted with diamonds. The beautiful swirls and tails are the result of cosmic collisions on a gigantic scale. A sixth galaxy, long since expelled from the group due to bad behaviour, plowed its way through the other galaxies, producing the fantastic tails shown in the picture. Not to be outdone, two of the remaining five galaxies had a head-on collision, ripping stars and gases from the galaxies and flinging them out into space. From the carnage arises new life; the impact(s) have spawned over 100 new star clusters, each containing millions of stars, and numerous dwarf galaxies. Appropriately enough Stephan’s Quintet resides in the constellation of Pegasus, the winged horse.

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