VST sees messy result of cosmic collision

Using ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST), astronomers captured this image of the particular galaxy NGC 7727.

This image, taken with ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope, shows NGC 7727, a special galaxy some 69 million light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. Image Credit: ESO / VST-ATLAS Team / University of Durham / CASU / WFAU.

“Just as people at a busy intersection can accidentally collide, so can the galaxies of the Universe!” ESO astronomers said.

“But in this case, the result is more dramatic than a little nudge.”

“When two galaxies clash, they merge into each other, giving rise to a new, larger one. An example is NGC 7727, shown in this VST image.

NGC 7727 is located approximately 69 million light years from Earth in the constellation Aquarius.

This 115,000 light-year-wide galaxy was discovered by German-born British astronomer William Herschel on November 27, 1785.

Also referred to as Arp 222 and LEDA 72060, the galaxy is the brightest member of the NGC 7727 (LGG 480) group.

Astronomers believe that NGC 7727 is the product of the merger of two smaller spiral galaxies that took place around a billion years ago.

The galaxy’s most likely fate is to become an elliptical galaxy in the future, with very little interstellar dust and star formation.

“NGC 7727 is believed to be the result of a clash between two galaxies that occurred about a billion years ago,” the researchers said.

“The consequences of this huge cosmic bump are still evident in the peculiar and irregular shape of NGC 7727 and the star fluxes in its outer regions.”

The new image of NGC 7727 was taken in visible light as part of the VST-ATLAS survey.

“The aim of the investigation is to map a large region of the southern sky – so large that you could contain around 19,000 full moons there,” the scientists explained.

“By studying the galaxies in this region, we aim to shed new light on the nature of dark energy, the mysterious force permeating the Universe and causing its accelerated expansion.”

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