Cosmic exclamation mark

Above is a recently released NASA image of two distant galaxies on a collision course. The galaxies, collectively referred to as VV 340 (also Arp 302 and UGC 9618), are 450 million light-years from Earth, and will take millions of years to collide. NASA released an optical image of the cosmic pair taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2008. The new image is a composite of an optical image from the Hubble and an X-ray image from the space-based Chandra X-ray Observatory. The X-ray image shows radiation from extremely hot gas (millions of degrees) within the galaxies.

What is apparently striking about this image is that the galaxies form a cosmic exclamation mark. However, celestial sky-writing is nothing new. Below is a cosmic message “written” using a galactic alphabet …

These letters are actual images of interacting galaxies, disturbed galaxies, and galaxy groups, discovered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, that happen to look very similar to letters in the alphabet. Check out the full Galactic Alphabet here.

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