Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/S.Mineo et al, Optical: NASA/STScI, Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Deck the halls with.. gas and dust? These downright festive-looking galaxies are IC 2163 & NGC 2207. They dwell 130 million light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Canis Major. Both galaxies, which were once spiral in nature, are at a pivotal point in their lives, hanging between friendly interaction and an all out merger.

In 15 years alone, NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory has identified 3 separate supernova events, one happens to be "the most bountiful collection of super bright x-ray lights known." Better known as "ultraluminous X-ray sources" (ULXs), these regions are believed to be associated with binary star systems, or a star locked in a tight orbit around another dense body, usually a neutron star, pulsar or a stellar-mass black hole.

Immense gravitational forces see the denser body pull stellar material from the star's outer-envelope. As it inches toward the body in question, the material is heated up substantially, reaching several millions of degrees in temperature, whilst emitting x-rays that can be picked up by Chandra.

In this newly-released composite, optical data from Hubble is represented in green, red and blue (appearing as blue, white, orange and brown, according to NASA), x-ray data from Chandra is seen in pink, and the infrared data , gathered by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, is seen in red.

A paper describing these results has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal. It is currently available online. (See a larger image here.)


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