NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured a rare and beautiful image of the elliptical galaxy PGC 6240, which looks like a pale rose in the sky.
The image shows the elliptical galaxy with multiple hazy shells of stars surrounding a very bright center. While stars near the center of the galaxy are closely packed together, stars further away look like they’ve been flung into space. Some of these stars are so far away from the center that it appears they’re not part of the same galaxy.
The galaxy is located in the southern constellation of Hydrus (The Water Snake). Researchers have also spotted various other galaxies in the background of PGC 6240 in this region. Though these galaxies are located very far apart from each other, researchers claim that each galaxy’s structure can be identified clearly.
The structure of PGC 6240 and other surrounding globular clusters have fascinated scientists for a while now and various studies have been conducted on the same. These globular clusters are dense, tightly packed groups of gravitationally bound stars that orbit galaxies. More than 150 such clusters are orbiting our very own Milky Way.
Ideally, all clusters surrounding a particular galaxy form at the same time, which means they are all of the same age. The same holds true of individual stars. However, globular clusters surrounding the PGC 6240 do not follow this theory. Researchers found that stars surrounding PGC 6240 range from being very old to recently born.
The most likely explanation for this would be that the elliptical galaxy merged with another sometime in the recent past. This merger may have disrupted the galaxy’s structure and formed the concentric shells of material seen in the recent image taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. The merger may have also ignited the formation of a huge number of stars within the galaxy and in surrounding globular clusters, which would explain the young stars.
The recent picture is one of the entries to Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition. Click here to browse through other submissions.