When we contemplate our place in the universe, sometimes it helps to look out into the cosmos and try to wrap our minds around the unimaginable number of planets, stars and galaxies. Astronomers have estimated that there is way over 100 billion planets and stars in the Milky Way alone, and over 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, all with billions and billions of alien suns and planets. The possibilities are endless and can entertain our imagination for countless hours until our brains almost explode.
Spectacular jets powered by the gravitational energy of a supermassive black hole in the core of the elliptical galaxy Hercules A illustrate the combined imaging power of two of astronomy's cutting-edge tools, the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3, and the recently upgraded Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in New Mexico.
As we sit on our hunk of rock somewhere in the outskirts of the Milky Way, we have no way to see ourselves from the outside. The Triangulum Galaxy helps us to imagine what we could look like. It is the third-largest member of the Local Group of galaxies, which includes the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy and about 30 other smaller galaxies. This galactic wonder is one of the most distant permanent objects that can be viewed with the naked eye.
At first glance this image taken by Hubble immediately invokes mind-blowing awe and wonder. THIS is out there in our universe. Hubble tells us the story of the galaxy in which it focused it's gaze. This is galaxy NGC 4522. It is one of about 1,300 galaxies racing around each in the Virgo galaxy cluster. Speeding through space it is being stripped of it's gas content. Every one of the galaxies visible in this incredible image has it's own story. Each one is filled with hundreds of billions of other suns with perhaps trillions of planets. What are their stories?
Observations with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have revealed a massive cloud of multimillion-degree gas in a galaxy about 60 million light years from Earth. The hot gas cloud is likely caused by a collision between a dwarf galaxy and a much larger galaxy called NGC 1232. If confirmed, this discovery would mark the first time such a collision has been detected only in X-rays, and could have implications for understanding how galaxies grow through similar collisions.
The Hubble Space Telescope has wowed us again, this time with an image of a galactic dance between two galaxies. As the pair get closer to each other their original shapes are stretched and pulled promoting imagination and wonder to all who view them. Some have said they look like a penguin or hummingbird. What do you see?
This is the newest image gifted to us Earthlings by the Hubble Space Telescope, a tale of two galaxies merged together as one. Catalogued as 2MASX J05210136-2521450 this majestic galactic treasure is certainly deserving of a more exciting name. As it's bright nucleus shines inside a cocoon of brightly lit swirls of hot dust and gas new stars are flashing into life.