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Hubble records mesmerizing images of galaxy mergers

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To celebrate the arrival of a new year, the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA have released images of six spectacular galaxy mergers. These events are a key aspect of the evolution of galaxies.

“It is during rare merging events that galaxies undergo dramatic changes in their appearance and in their stellar content. These systems are excellent laboratories to trace the formation of star clusters under extreme physical conditions,” explains the ESA on its website.

The galaxy we live, the Milky Way, typically forms star clusters with masses that are 10,000 times of the Sun. Meanwhile, star clusters that form in colliding galaxies can reach millions of times the mass of the sun.

Furthermore, these dense star systems are very luminous. Even after the collision, when the resulting galactic system begins to fade into a more dormant phase, these massive star clusters continue to glow in their host galaxy as true “enduring witnesses to past fusion events.”

The six recently shared snapshots were recorded by the Hubble imaging Probe of Extreme Environments and Clusters (HiPEEC) probe for recording images of clusters and extreme environments, as part of an investigation of the rate of new star formation within such systems.

The HiPEEC study revealed that stars in clusters undergo large and rapid variations in their properties during mergers. Furthermore, the most massive clusters were found to form towards the end of the fusion phase.

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