Scientists at NASA and the European Space Agency have published jaw-dropping photographs of one of the universe's rarest cosmic phenomenon – and they've done it to cheer us all up after the nightmare that was 2020.
To usher in the new year with some fanfare, the two agencies – which co-run the Hubble Telescope – published a montage of six stunning galaxy mergers.
The collision of two such systems is a key moment in the development of solar systems and entire galaxies, and was described by boffins at NASA and the ESA as "among the most spectacular events in the lifetime of a galaxy".
Being able to study mergers is one of the best ways mankind can begin to figure out exactly how star clusters are formed, and can help us trace back the extreme physical conditions that must have existed for our own home galaxy, the Milky Way, to be created.
And, amazingly, some of the star clusters in these far off galaxies absolutely dwarf our own.
In the Milky Way star clusters tend to be around 10,000 times the mass of our own Sun, but in these colliding ones star clusters can be millions of times larger.
And they make for spectacular photographs because the energy given off by such large stellar clusters makes them so much more luminous.
That means that more detail is picked up by the Hubble Telescope, and thanks to advances in technology top docs at NASA and the ESA have been able to pinpoint the ages and masses of these star clusters.
The research has also helped work out exactly how much these galaxies are changed every time a collision occurs.
What do you make of these amazing images? Let us know in the comments below
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