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Section 5

What happens when two galaxies become one?

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The twisted cosmic knot seen here by the Hubble Space Telescope (@NASAHubble) depicts just that. This celestial object gained its unusual and distinctive shape as the result of a major collision and subsequent merger between two separate galaxies. This violent encounter caused clouds of gas within the two galaxies to become compressed and stirred up, in turn triggering a sharp spike of star formation. This active star formation is marked by speckled patches of bright blue; these can be seen clustered both in the center and along the trails of dust and gas forming the sweeping curves (known as tidal tails). These tails extend for roughly 50,000 light-years from end to end. Many young, hot, newborn stars form in bright stellar clusters — at least 170 such clusters are known to exist here. Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
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