Atlas Image mosaic, covering 7' x 7' on the sky of the interacting galaxies NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, better known as the Antennae, or Ring Tail galaxies. The two galaxies are engaged in a tug-of-war as they collide.

Atlas Image mosaic, covering 7´ × 7´ on the sky of the interacting galaxies NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, better known as the Antennae, or Ring Tail galaxies. The two galaxies are engaged in a tug-of-war as they collide. The mutual gravitation between them is working to distort each spiral galaxy's appearance as the two merge. The interaction is evidently impetus for an intense burst of new star formation, as can be seen from the many infrared-bright knots and bright galactic nuclei. Compare the 2MASS view of this system with that obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope in the optical. Many of the same features are seen, although 2MASS is able to peer through much of the dust seen in the galaxies' disks. The galaxy light looks smoother. Also, in the near-infrared the bright knots of star formation are likely highlighted by the light of massive red supergiant stars. The much more extended "tidal tails," which give the Antennae their name, are quite faint in the 2MASS image mosaic.

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