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The Dancing Duo

28 Apr 2011, 19:29 UTC
The Dancing Duo
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The ESO’s La Silla Observatory high in the Chilean Andes has captured a stunning image of galaxies NGC 3166 and NGC 3169.
NGC 3166 and NGC 3169 Credit: ESO/Igor Chekalin
The pair are located around 70 million light years from the Earth in the direction of the constellation Sextans – The Sextant. They were first identified by William Hershel in 1783. The distance dividing the pair has been calculated to be approximately 50,000 light years, while this may sound like a monstrously large void it equates to only half the diameter of our own Galaxy the Milky Way. This on the scale of the Universe is tiny, and with each member of the pair well within the reach of the other’s gravity each has wreaked havoc on the other.
NGC 3169 which is on the left of the image, has had its spiral arms twisted apart exposing young star clusters to the void and throwing material in large arcs into space. This twisting has also compressed gas and dust producing a new wave of star formation and generating many large, bright, blue stars giving the galaxy its blue hue.
NGC 3166 (on the right) has had its dust lanes and ...

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