A camera originally built to research dark energy has obtained a magnificent image of two colliding galaxies. NGC 1512 and NGC 1510, the two galaxies in this image, are part of an interacting pair that has been in the process of merging for 400 million years. The forces are driving star formation and numerous new stars are being formed as the two come closer together, drawn together by gravity.
The larger galaxy on the left of the photograph, NGC 1512, is a barred spiral galaxy similar to our Milky Way. Galaxy NGC 1510, its smaller companion, is a dwarf lenticular galaxy, which means it is a small kind of galaxy that has some spiral and elliptical traits.
As the two galaxies merge,
you can see tendrils of dust and gas shooting out from the bigger galaxy, with gravitational forces stretching out their shapes and fuelling the star creation shown in the stream of light between them. The two galaxies will eventually combine and become one galaxy.
The duo can be found in the Horologium, or Pendulum Clock, constellation, which is visible in the southern hemisphere. They were observed in detail at 60 million light-years away using NOIRLab’s Dark Energy Camera, better known as DECam. This device, which is housed atop the Victor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, was created to study dark matter as part of the Dark Energy Survey project.
The observations for this research, which looked at large areas of space to learn more about dark energy, were completed in 2019. Since then, DECam has been used to acquire further data, such as this image of galactic interaction.
NOIRLab explains that DECam “collect[s] starlight reflected by the telescope’s 4-meter-wide (13-foot-wide) mirror, a large, aluminum-coated, and perfectly shaped piece of glass the weight of a semi-truck.”
“Starlight is caught by a grid of 62 charge-coupled devices after traveling through the optical innards of DECam, which include a correction lens nearly a meter (3.3 feet) across” (CCDs). These CCDs are similar to the sensors found in regular digital cameras, but they are significantly more sensitive, allowing the instrument to create detailed photos of dim celestial objects like NGC 1512 and NGC 1510.”
Camera for Dark Energy
A four-meter-wide (13-foot-wide) mirror plus a one-meter-wide (3.3-foot-wide) correction lens make up the Dark Energy Camera.
The Dark Energy Camera was created for experts to finish a prior project known as the Dark Energy Survey. The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory of the US Department of Energy is in charge of this endeavor.
Over 400 scientists from seven countries participated in the Dark Energy Survey. From 2013 to 2019, the researchers identified and photographed nearly 300 million galaxies strewn throughout space as part of the study. The mission’s major goal is to learn more about the dark energy that exists in many of the universe’s planetary neighbors.
The Dark Energy Camera remained involved in other projects requiring photos of distant galaxies after the large-scale survey concluded.
The camera’s most recent shots from the NGC 1512 and NGC 1510 would be the galactic ballet’s final images, as estimates show that the larger galaxy will eventually engulf its dwarf partner. This will end the million-year dance in the future, but it will usher in a new, combined galaxy in our time.
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