Close to completing 32 years in activity, the Hubble Space Telescope never tires of surprising us with increasingly impressive images of the universe. This time, he brings us the record of what appears to be a beautiful pair of translucent wings hovering in the cosmos.
Would it be a concrete proof of the existence of celestial beings, such as angels, archangels and cherubs flying over the immensity of space? To the disappointment of many, no. But, it is still something as magical and beautiful as.
These stunning “wings” are the result of an ongoing collision between two distant galaxies, belonging to the VV689 system, aptly dubbed… Angel Wings.
This system is located in the constellation of Leo, according to a statement from the European Space Agency (ESA). The distinctive look of wings is a result of a cataclysmic encounter between two galaxies that have been in the process of merging for billions of years.
“Unlike galaxy alignments that only appear to overlap as seen from our vantage point on Earth, the two galaxies in VV689 are in the midst of a collision,” reads the ESA statement. “The galactic interaction left the VV689 system almost completely symmetrical, giving the impression of a vast array of galactic wings.”
The image is part of a citizen science project called Galaxy Zoo — a collective-source astronomy initiative that involves the work of hundreds of thousands of volunteers, who help astronomers classify galaxies through data from robotic telescopes.
Another similar project, called Radio Galaxy Zoo, uses the same collaborative approach to identify supermassive black holes in distant galaxies.
Interesting objects discovered through both citizen science projects are chosen for further observation using Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). These targets – ranging from ring-shaped galaxies to unusual spirals and galactic mergers – are selected via public voting.
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