Scientia — This image, taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the galaxy NGC 6052, located around 230 million light-years away in the constellation of Hercules.
It would be reasonable to think of this as a single abnormal galaxy, and it was originally classified as such. However, it is in fact a “new” galaxy in the process of forming. Two separate galaxies have been gradually drawn together, attracted by gravity, and have collided. We now see them merging into a single structure.
As the merging process continues, individual stars are thrown out of their original orbits and placed onto entirely new paths, some very distant from the region of the collision itself. Since the stars produce the light we see, the “galaxy” now appears to have a highly chaotic shape. Eventually, this new galaxy will settle down into a stable shape, which may not resemble either of the two original galaxies.
What is the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2
The Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) was Hubble’s workhorse camera for many years. It recorded images through a selection of 48 colour filters covering a spectral range from far-ultraviolet to visible and near-infrared wavelengths. The ‘heart’ of WFPC2 consisted of an L-shaped trio of wide-field sensors and a smaller, high resolution (Planetary) Camera placed at the square’s remaining corner.
WFPC2 produced most of the stunning images that have been released as public outreach images over the years. Its resolution and excellent quality were some of the reasons that WFPC2 was the most used instrument in the first 13 years of Hubble’s life.
WFPC2 was replaced by WFC3 during Servicing Mission 4 in 2009.
After being brought down by the Space Shuttle, WFPC2 was put on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, alongside parts from its predecessor, WFPC1.
– Credit and Resource –
Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt
Text credit: European Space Agency