NASA recently released this spectacular imagery of the galaxy NGC 5256, also known as Markarian 266. The bright colors radiating from the center are actually two galaxies on the verge of a massive galactic collision. What's unique about this video is that new technological advancements in imagery made it possible to show the presence of gas; previous images taken in 2008 didn't capture this beautiful level of detail.
NASA's Hubble Space telescope captured this image of the galaxy NGC 5256 on the verge of a galactic collision. (Photo: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration and A. Evans, University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)
NGC 5256 is a galaxy located in the constellation Ursa Major and is about 350 million light-years away. It's comprised of two disc galaxies, a flat circular group of stars. The two galaxies contain gas, dust and stars that swirl around together, creating new stars along the way.
While some galaxies interact with one slowly absorbing the other, other galaxies unite together in a violent and chaotic collision. NGC 5256 is on the verge of a powerful collision. The red plumes seen in the video above were formed by strong tidal effects. After millions of years, the plumes will settle into a more stable grouping.
NASA says galaxies merging together were more common during the beginning of our universe and led to galactic evolution. Therefore, galaxies today represent near-collisions and mergers from the past.