Merging galaxies shine with the light of a trillion suns

Photo: NASA (Fair Use)

In a new image captured by the JWST, two galaxies collectively known as Arp 220, which are merging 250 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Serpens, can be seen.

This process of galaxy mergers unfolds over long cosmic timescales. According to astronomers, the two spiral galaxies of Arp 220, which have similar tails swirling in their outskirts, began merging around 700 million years ago.

By comparison, the Milky Way galaxy is expected to closely approach Andromeda in the next four to five billion years, and the merger itself is predicted to last 10 billion years, Space reported.

As the galaxies of Arp 220 merged, the high abundance of gas and dust triggered a period of intense star formation, mainly concentrated in their central, dusty regions.

According to the Webb team, “The amount of gas in this tiny region is equal to all of the gas in the entire Milky Way galaxy,” as stated in an image description published on Monday (April 17).

Astronomers have identified more than 200 star clusters crammed into an area of only 5,000 light-years across, with the central star-forming ring of Arp 220 shining brilliantly, seen as six spikes in the Webb’s image.

Written by staff