New Hubble Imagery Captures Strange Warping Caused By A Past Cosmic Collision

This image, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the galaxy NGC 4490. The scattered and warped appearance of the galaxy are the result of a past cosmic collision with another galaxy, NGC 4485 (not visible in this image). / ESA/Hubble & NASA

A pink array is captured by NASA’s Hubble Telescope which represents regions of intense star formation that’s been caused by a cosmic-scale collision. The galactic spectacle is located in galaxy NGC 4490, which is a huge galaxy with a smaller one in its grip. While gravity is relatively weak in comparison to other fundamental forces at work within the universe, it still has a huge influence in the cosmic world and is the driving force behind most massive objects in the cosmos.

NGC 4490 and its smaller neighbor NGC 4485 have grown increasingly closer over the past few millions of years due to their mutual gravitational attraction to one another. Finally, they collided with each other and moved through one another. Once they were untangled, they sped off again in different directions. But, because of gravity’s pull, it’s very likely that these two galaxies will collide one day again in the next few billion years.

Combined, NGC 4490 and NGC 4485 make up a system called Arp 29 which is located around 24 million light years from Earth. The shapes and properties of these galaxies have been determined very much by the extreme tidal forces of their interaction. Upon these two colliding patches of dense gas and dust clouds were sent hurtling through the cosmos, creating an atmosphere perfect for forming stars. This is what has led NGC 4490 to become classified as a starburst galaxy.

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