The ghostly bird measuring 100,000 light years across. It is in fact a collision of galaxies 650 light years away. Involving two spiral-shaped galaxies and a third irregular mass of stars, the event was caught by the infrared camera of the European Southern Observatory's telescope in Chile. The bird's head, formed from one of the galaxies, is tearing away from its body at 400 km (250 miles) per second. Rather than colliding, the billions of stars are rushing past each other. However, in millions of years, their combined gravitational tug will pull them back, merging the galaxies into a huge stallar cluster. Massive clouds of gas are colliding and condensing to create new stars. It's estimated that enough gas is condensing in the bird's head alone to form 200 stars the mass of our sun every year. The two spiral galaxies forming the body and wings met first, probably a couple of hundred million years ago.
(Sydney Morning Herald 28th December 2007)
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