A Violent Collision of Stars, or a Marriage?

That’s the question many are asking when they see this stunning new image of the merging Antennae galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope:


Reuters explains: 

A seemingly violent collision of two galaxies is in fact a fertile marriage that has birthed billions of new stars, and an image released on Tuesday gives astronomers their best view yet.

The new image of the Antennae galaxies allows astronomers working with the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope to distinguish between new stars and the star clusters that form them.

Most of these clusters, created in the collision of the two galaxies, will disperse within 10 million years but about 100 of the largest will grow into "globular clusters" — large groups of stars found in many galaxies, including our own Milky Way.

The Antennae galaxies, 68 million light years from Earth, began to fuse 500 million years ago.

The image serves as a preview for the Milky Way’s likely collision with the nearby Andromeda Galaxy, about 6 billion years from now.

So if you’ve ever gotten the feeling that everything was heading towards a tremendous smash-up — well, you’re right.

You can zoom in on the above image at the HubbleSite