Astronomers have discovered a tsunami of stars and gas crashing midway through the disk of spiral galaxy IC 2163.
The team of scientists worked with the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) and found that the extraordinary wave of material was triggered as the galaxy sideswiped another spiral galaxy called NGC 2207. The results of this astronomic incidents were arcs of star formations looking like a pair of eyelids, very intense in nature.
Michele Kaufman, an astronomer who collaborated with Ohio State University of Columbus in the past, and her team of researchers came across the number of similar characteristics while analyzing the observable universe, coming to the conclusion that the most likely cause of this events is their ephemeral sum of characteristics.
Where It All Began
The pair of galaxies that interacted is located roughly 114 million light-years from our planet, in the direction of the Canis Major constellation. The astronomical event consisted of the two formations passing one by the other, touching the edges of the outer spiral arms in the process, which is theorized as being the first encounter in the series of events that will ultimately cause a merger.
The researchers used ALMA due to its top-notch resolution and sensitivity, which helped the team take the necessary measurements down to the slimmest details. The analysis resulted from the process is the most comprehensive examination of the carbon monoxide gas' motion in that galaxy. The substance is known to be a tracer when it comes to molecular gas, the latter being the fuel that supports the formation of new stars.
The data suggested that the gas in the exterior portion of the IC 2163 galaxy's eyelids is performing an inward movement at high speed, reaching 100 kilometers per second. Nonetheless, the gas manages to decelerate the motion fast and turn it into a more chaotic movement, which will ultimately alter the trajectory, causing it to align itself with the movement of the galaxy instead of advancing toward the center.
Galaxy Collision Theories
While galaxy collisions are a phenomenon that can be observed in the astronomical world, only a tiny part of the galaxy presenting ocular structures have been documented up until now, according to Kaufman.
The current theories of astronomers state that these types of collisions occurring between galaxies used to be common at the beginning of the universe formation, when all the galaxies were a lot closer together. The astronomers will continue their research of this galaxy pair. Their current focus is on the comparison of properties of the star clusters, which were previously reported with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope against their own research on the activity discovered with ALMA.