Hubble views a galactic mega-merger
The subject of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is known as NGC 3597. It is the product of a collision between two good-sized galaxies, and is slowly evolving to become a giant elliptical galaxy. This type of galaxy has grown more and more common as the universe has evolved, with initially small galaxies merging and progressively building up into larger galactic structures over time.
|NGC 3597 [Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Judy Schmidt]|
Before infirmity sets in, some freshly formed elliptical galaxies experience a final flush of youth, as is the case with NGC 3597. Galaxies smashing together pool their available gas and dust, triggering new rounds of star birth. Some of this material ends up in dense pockets initially called proto-globular clusters, dozens of which festoon NGC 3597. These pockets will go on to collapse and form fully-fledged globular clusters, large spheres that orbit the centers of galaxies like satellites, packed tightly full of millions of stars.
Source: NASA [January 17, 2016]