Hubble reveals ancient evidence of galaxy merger

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows the globular cluster NGC 2005. It is located about 750 light-years from the center of the Large Magellanic Cloud and about 162,000 light-years from Earth. The cluster is an example of ancient cosmic structures, potentially containing millions of old stars that provide insights similar to fossils on Earth, revealing the features of ancient stars. Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA, F. Niederhoffer, L. Girardi

NGC 2005, a globular cluster in the Large Magellanic Cloud, serves as a key evidence supporting the theory of the evolution of galaxies through mergers.

This mesmerizing image Hubble Space Telescope This includes the globular cluster NGC 2005. While it is not unusual in itself, it is an oddity in relation to its surrounding environment.

NGC 2005 is located about 750 light-years from the heart of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). GalaxyGlobular clusters are densely packed groups that can contain thousands or even millions of stars. Their density means they are tightly bound by gravity and are therefore very stable. This stability contributes to their longevity: globular clusters can be billions of years old, and thus often contain very old stars.

So, studying globular clusters in space may be a bit like studying fossils on Earth: While fossils provide insight into the characteristics of ancient plants and animals, globular clusters shed light on the characteristics of ancient stars.

Current theories of galaxy evolution predict that galaxies merge with one another. It is widely believed that the relatively large galaxies we see in the modern universe were formed through the mergers of smaller galaxies. If this is correct, astronomers would expect to see evidence that the most ancient stars in nearby galaxies originated in different galactic environments. Because ancient stars are found in globular clusters, and because of their stability, they are an excellent laboratory for testing this hypothesis.

NGC 2005 is one such globular cluster, and its existence has provided evidence to support the theory of galaxy evolution through mergers. In fact, the chemical composition of stars in NGC 2005 is different from that of stars in the LMC. This suggests that the LMC merged with another galaxy somewhere in its history. That other galaxy has long ago merged and otherwise disintegrated, but NGC 2005 has been left behind as an ancient witness to a long-gone merger.


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