A giant wave of gas is currently slamming through a distant spiral galaxy and as it travels it is creating a spectacular image that resembles eyelids. The zone of turbulence was formed as a result of galaxy IC2163 being brushed by galaxy NGC 2207 and the resulting “eyelid” feature will remain for millions of years.
The collision zone is 114 million light years away from Earth. Although these types of collisions aren’t uncommon, few galaxies with ocular (eye-like) structures exist to our knowledge. The galaxies, although they are currently just brushing against each other, are expected to eventually merge.
The gas in IC2163 was observed to be moving inward at a rate of 60 m/sec, but it won’t keep that pace forever. As the gas moves toward the inside, it decelerates and changes direction so that it is moving with the rotation of the galaxy rather than toward the center. As the gas decelerates, it also becomes denser and gathers in the “eyelid” zone. This zone then becomes a hotspot for potential star formation according to researchers.
The activity within the galaxy is very like a huge ocean wave rushing toward the shore. When the wave reaches the shallows, it loses its momentum and deposits everything that it is carrying on the beach.
Cover photo credit – : NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI)