posted 4 March 2010
If galaxies formed near the beginning of time why are there galaxies with spectacularly peculiar shapes? After billions of years would not gravity cause all the stars to settle into uniform orbits, ensuring all galaxies had regular shapes? Why are there distorted galaxies like those in this colour image released by NASA on Feb 18, 2010? The bright, twisted object at middle, left, is actually two colliding dwarf galaxies. This composite image, which uses data from three space-based telescopes, was created by Jayanne English in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. English participated in a research project on this group of four galaxies, called Hickson Compact Group 31, led by Sarah Gallagher at the University of Western Ontario. The research team found that this group of galaxies provides a rare surrogate for studying encounters between galaxies when the universe was young.
The composite image uses data from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Galaxy Evolution Explorer telescope.