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Colliding galaxies form stunning 'cosmic kaleidoscope' in ESA image (PHOTO)

Colliding galaxies form stunning 'cosmic kaleidoscope' in ESA image (PHOTO)
The European Space agency has shared an incredibly serene and beautiful picture of two distant galaxy clusters as they approach one another for collision.

The two clusters, even though they have not yet fully collided, are now known as one object named MACS J0416.

This cosmic kaleidoscope of purple, blue and pink marks the site of two colliding galaxy clusters, forming a single object known as MACS J0416.1-2403 (or MACS J0416 for short). 🌌🛰🚀✨ MACS J0416 is located about 4.3 billion light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Eridanus. As with all galaxy clusters, MACS J0416 contains a significant amount of dark matter, which leaves a detectable imprint in visible light by distorting the images of background galaxies. In this image, this dark matter appears to align well with the blue-hued hot gas, suggesting that the two clusters have not yet collided; if the clusters had already smashed into one another, the dark matter and gas would have separated. MACS J0416 also contains other features — such as a compact core of hot gas — that would likely have been disrupted had a collision already occurred. Together with five other galaxy clusters, MACS J0416 is playing a leading role in the Hubble Frontier Fields programme, for which this data was obtained. Owing to its huge mass, the cluster is in fact bending the light of background objects, acting as a magnifying lens. Astronomers can use this phenomenon to find galaxies that existed only hundreds of million years after the big bang. Credit: NASA, ESA, CXC, NRAO/AUI/NSF, STScI, and G. Ogrean (Stanford University) #space #learnsomethingnew #galaxy #cluster #deepspace #astronomy #stars #starstuff #hubble #photooftheday #darkmatter #instacool #instalike #color #cosmos #spaceart

A photo posted by ESA (@europeanspaceagency) on

The ESA notes that the alignment of dark matter with “blue-hued hot gas” indicates that the clusters have not collided yet - if they had, “the dark matter and gas would have separated”.

MACS J0416 is located in the Eridanus constellation - some 4.3 billion light-years from Earth - so it’s safe to say we’ll be admiring these collisions safely from afar for the foreseeable future.

The image is a combination of data from three separate telescopes: the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, NASA CHANDRA X-ray Observatory, and the NRAO Jansky Very Large Array.

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Together, these telescopes show scientists three aspects of the collision site in detail; Hubble is responsible for the galaxies and stars, Chandra the diffuse emission in blue, and Jansky the diffuse emission in pink.

The ESA says MACS J016 is “playing a leading role in the Hubble Frontier Fields programme” and leading astronomers in the discovery of galaxies that existed “only hundreds of millions of years after the big bang”.