The Hubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) has uncovered a collision between two spiral galaxies in the heart of the peculiar galaxy called Arp 220. The collision has provided the spark for a burst of star formation.
The NICMOS image captures bright knots of stars forming in the heart of Arp 220. The bright, crescent moon-shaped object is a remnant core of one of the colliding galaxies. The core is a cluster of 1 billion stars. The core's half-moon shape suggests that its bottom half is obscured by a disk of dust about 300 light-years across. This disk is embedded in the core and may be swirling around a black hole. The core of the other colliding galaxy is the bright round object to the left of the crescent moon-shaped object. Both cores are about 1,200 light-years apart and are orbiting each other.
Arp 220, located 250 million light-years away in the constellation Serpens, is the 220th object in Halton Arp's Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies.
The image was taken with three filters. The colors have been adjusted so that, in this infrared image, blue corresponds to shorter wavelengths, red to longer wavelengths.
The image was taken April 5, 1997.