Over 400,000 light years across
NGC 6872 is an
enormous spiral galaxy,
at least 4 times the size of our own, very large, Milky Way.
About 200 million light-years distant, toward the southern
constellation Pavo, the Peacock, the remarkable
out shape is due to its ongoing
gravitational interaction, likely leading to
an eventual merger,
with the nearby smaller
galaxy IC 4970.
IC 4970 is seen just below and right of
the giant galaxy's core in
this cosmic color portrait
from the 8 meter
Gemini South telescope in Chile.
The idea to image this titanic galaxy collision comes from a
winning contest essay
submitted last year to the
by the Sydney Girls High School Astronomy Club.
In addition to inspirational aspects and aesthetics,
club members argued
that a color image would be more than just a pretty picture.
In their winning essay they noted that
"If enough colour data is obtained in the image it may reveal easily
accessible information about the different populations of stars, star
formation, relative rate of star formation due to the interaction, and
the extent of dust and gas present in these galaxies".
(Editor's note: For Australian schools,
2011 contest information
Sydney Girls High School Astronomy Club,
(Australian Astronomical Obs./ Macquarie Univ.),