Richard Drumm

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Title: UNAWE Space Scoop – A Cosmic Duet

Organization: 365 Days Of Astronomy

Link : ;

Description: Space scoop, news for children. 

Astronomers have just captured a new image of a beautiful sort of “dance” between two galaxies: the spiral NGC 1512, it’s the pretty, large, barred spiral in the picture, and its small neighbor NGC 1510. 

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This is the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. Today we bring you a new episode in our Space Scoop series. This show is produced in collaboration with Universe Awareness, a program that strives to inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos.

Today’s story is…

A cosmic duet

Astronomers have just captured a new image of a beautiful sort of “dance” between two galaxies: the spiral NGC 1512, it’s the pretty, large, barred spiral in the picture, and its small neighbor NGC 1510. 

They’re located in the direction of constellation Horologium, or The Clock, some 60 million light-years from us, in Earth’s southern sky. 

Such galaxy mergers are common. Our own Milky Way is currently merging with several dwarf galaxies, most prominently the large and small Magellanic Clouds.

In about 4 to 5 billion years the Milky Way will also merge with M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. 

When this happens the night sky will look rather different.

Instead of seeing one stripe of stars in the sky, we’ll see two, which’ll form a giant “X”.

The Milky Way gets its name from the whitish color and road-like shape that is represents. Think Appian Way with spilled milk.

So maybe the new view will be called the Milky Crossroads…


This is an important part of the evolution of galaxies and the evolution of the Universe as a whole.

As two galaxies move through each other, the likelihood that any stars will collide with each other is vanishingly small.

But between the stars of each of the colliding galaxies the vacuum of empty space isn’t actually empty.

There’s gas there!

Hydrogen & Helium mostly of course.

Though the stars won’t hit, the gas clouds will surely hit each other and will get compressed.

In fact, they’ll get so compressed that stars will be formed by the hundreds or even thousands in a year’s time!

Then millions of years after our big merger with Andromeda there’ll be less gas to make new stars, so the star formation rate will drop.

In the image that I linked to, we can see NGC 1512 seems like it’s trying to stretch and touch its tiny friend nearby, NGC 1510. 

The gravity well of each galaxy is simply distorting the shape of each of the galaxies.

The starry stream of light bridging the two galaxies shows that they’re interacting because of that mutual gravity between them – a process that has been going on for about 400 million years!

This gravitational interaction has affected the speed of star formation in both galaxies and is changing their shapes, too. 

It’s all happening right before our eyes! Or our telescopes, anyway.

In the distant future, these galaxies will merge into a larger one.

The pretty barred spiral shape will be disrupted and disappear with the resultant galaxy being what we call an elliptical galaxy. 

Astronomers working with the Dark Energy Camera, or DECam, one of the world’s most powerful cameras, took the image. 

The instrument was housed on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at the CTIO, the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. 

Hey, here’s a cool fact:

The DECam took six years – from 2004 to 2010 – to be designed and built. 

It was created to conduct the DES, the Dark Energy Survey, a six-year long international project that mapped hundreds of millions of galaxies and found thousands of supernovae!

It has mapped the delicate structure of the cosmos, filling in details of the not-well-understood dark energy and its role in accelerating the expansion of the Universe. 

Now that the DES survey is completed, the camera continues to perform flawlessly in programs led by scientists from around the world who are continuing its legacy of cutting-edge science.

Thank you for listening to the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast!

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy

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After 10 years, the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast is entering its second decade of sharing important milestone in space exploration and astronomy discoveries. Join us and share your story. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!