Compared to the dazzling high-definition images we usually feature, these galaxies are fuzzy and kind of disappointing, but appearances can be deceiving. In this case, astronomers don’t study them because they are attractive, but because some unusual activity is taking place in their epicenter.
The galaxies—the center of which is called the Eye of Medusa—are located approximately 100 million light-years from Earth in the Ursa Major They are currently in the process of merging, which greatly affects their appearance.
That said, the galaxies that comprise the so-called Eye of Medusa aren’t the only galaxies in the process of merging. Many, many galaxy mergers have been observed. However, in studying them, astronomers have curiously discovered a new, more extreme method of star formation taking place within NGC 4150—one of the galaxies with a heavyweight black hole in its center.
The image above was taken at multiple wavelengths. White and green colors indicate where this black hole resides, while orange shows the location of the Eye of Medusa in respect to NGC 4150’s black hole (right above it).