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Interacting Galaxies Arp 273 (WFC3/UVIS)

The exact formation of interacting galaxies like Apr 273 can be perplexing. Galaxy interactions are a common occurrence that can cause the colliding galaxies to morph into wondrous new shapes. Thanks to powerful supercomputer simulations researchers can study how galaxies are transformed and merge together. Astronomical images represent a single snapshot in a long and complex evolution.

The enormous size of galaxies implies equally enormous timescales. A collision of two spiral galaxies takes hundreds of millions of years to occur, so we can't just watch them happen. Instead, astronomers can use computer simulations to show us what would happen if two galaxies collided in a certain way. Here's an example of a visualization of a galaxy collision supercomputer simulation which shows the entire collision sequence, and compares the different stages of the collision to different interacting galaxy pairs observed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

Astrophysicist John Dubinski's has created stunning supercomputer simulations of galactic evolution set to music. This example shows a simulation which gives a bird's eye view of what it's going to look like when the Andromeda and Milky Way Galaxies crash into each other, a few billion years from now. To see more animations of galaxy collisions, visit Dubinski's website.
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