The polls are closed and the votes are tallied: The public has decided to aim the Hubble Space Telescope at a pair of merging galaxies and take a snapshot of the cosmic smashup.
Out of the 140,000 votes in an online NASA contest, a pair of interacting galaxies known collectively as Arp 274 beat five other astronomical contenders as the people?s choice for the iconic observatory?s next target. Voting ending on March 1.
Arp 274 weighed in with a hefty 67,021 votes to top the polls of NASA?s ?Hubble, You Decide? contest, which allowed the public to pick one of six astronomical candidates as part of the ongoing International Year of Astronomy. Hubble will turn its camera eye on Arp 274 between April 2 and April 5 during the International Year of Astronomy?s ?100 Hours of Astronomy? to generate a high-resolution, full-color image that will be released to its eager public.
The two spiral galaxies that make up Arp 274 are being drawn together by gravity. While their spiral shapes are intact for the most part, there is some evidence of gravitational distortions within them as they gradually merge together.
Astronomers expect to see elegant lanes of interstellar dust, stars and bright blue clusters of baby stars in Hubble?s new view of Arp 274.
NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope in April 1990. Since then, the observatory has spent nearly 19 years scanning the depths of the universe and returning stunning views to scientists and the public on Earth.
Four NASA space shuttle crews have visited the space telescope to make repairs and upgrades during its orbital life. The fifth and last overhaul for Hubble is currently slated to launch on May 12. That mission includes five spacewalks aimed at extending Hubble?s lifetime through at least 2013.
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