A beautiful image showing two interacting galaxies was captured by a camera originally designed to study dark energy.
The two galaxies in this image, NGC 1512 and NGC 1510, are part of an interacting pair that have been merging together for 400 million years.
As the two come close to each other by gravity, the forces accelerate star formation and many new stars are born.
NGC 1512, a narrow spiral galaxy like our Milky Way, the younger partner, NGC 1510, is a dwarf lenticular galaxy, which means it is a small type of galaxy that has some characteristics of a spiral galaxy and some elliptical galaxies, Digitartlends reported.
You can see tendrils of dust and gas arriving from the larger galaxy when the two merge, with gravitational forces stretching their shapes and pushing visible star formation in the light stream between them, eventually the two will complete their merger and become one galaxy.
The pair is located in the constellation of the Horologium, or pendulum clock, which can be seen in the Southern Hemisphere, 60 million light-years away, imaged in detail using the NOIRLab dark energy camera, also known as DECam. This instrument, located on the 4-meter Víctor M. Blanco Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, is designed to investigate dark matter in a project called the Dark Energy Survey.
This project looked at large areas of space to understand more about dark energy, and the observations were completed in 2019, and since then DECam has been well used to collect other data like this picture of galactic interaction.
NOIRLab explains that DECam “collects starlight reflected by the telescope’s 4m (13ft) wide mirror, a massive, delicately shaped aluminum-coated piece of glass that weighs roughly the weight of a semi-truck.”
After passing through the optical internals of the DECam – including a corrective lens approximately one meter (3.3 ft) wide – starlight is captured by a network of 62 charge-coupled devices (CCDs), the CCDs are similar to the sensors in digital cameras. “These are regular images but are much more sensitive, and allow the instrument to create detailed images of faint astronomical objects such as NGC 1512 and NGC 1510.”
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