A cosmic 'string of pearls'

This stellar “string of pearls,” seen adorning the hearts of two giant elliptical galaxies in the process of merging, was snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope during a study of gravitational lensing effects. This strung-out arrangement of star superclusters, 100,000 light-years long, occurs along a tidal bridge between the two merging galaxies, and researchers are trying to figure out what process is causing this burst of star formation. Is it formed out of gas from the galaxies themselves, from cooled intergalactic gas, or spawned by a shock wave from the collision? The photograph was released by the Space Telescope Science Institute and NASA.

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