The largest amount of these gasses is hydrogen and it surrounds the galaxies in long clouds that stream out away from them. These hydrogen clouds are what give the Antennae Galaxy its name: on either side of the collision they form long arms that arch like an insect’s antennae.
Antennae Galaxy Profile
Diameter: About 360,000 light years
Distance from earth: 45 million light years*
Discovered: 1785 by William and Caroline Herschel (siblings)
Estimated number of stars: 300 billion
Within the Galaxy
Also discovered by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory is that iron, magnesium, silicon and neon are present in large quantities in the Antennae Galaxy. At least two supernovas have been observed in the colliding galaxies, in 2004 and 2007, respectively.Images from the Hubble Telescope confirm the Chandra observations. The Hubble has photographed the Antennae Galaxy at least three times, in 1997, 2006 and 2013. These images show what appears to be a stormy cosmic dance of stars, gas clouds, dust and light. An arch of stars that have been pulled from other galaxies shows up as a bright blue, red and hot pink corona around the colliding galaxies.
William is credited with recording more than 800 pairs of stars that visually appear close together and more than 2000 celestial objects that he referred to as “nebulae.” (It was not until 1926 that many of Herschel’s recorded nebulae turned out to be such things as galaxies beyond the Milky Way.)*Note: May 2008: Research from the Hubble Telescope places the Antennae Galaxy much closer to earth than originally thought, moving it from 63 million light years to 45 million light years.