Ultraluminous Galaxy Merger NGC 6240
Ssc2009 06a1

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI-ESA/S. Bush (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA)

Observation • March 16th, 2009 • ssc2009-06a1


This image of a pair of colliding galaxies called NGC 6240 shows them in a rare, short-lived phase of their evolution just before they merge into a single, larger galaxy. The prolonged, violent collision has drastically altered the appearance of both galaxies and created huge amounts of heat -- turning NGC 6240 into an "infrared luminous" active galaxy.

A rich variety of active galaxies, with different shapes, luminosities and radiation profiles exist. These galaxies may be related -- astronomers have suspected that they may represent an evolutionary sequence. By catching different galaxies in different stages of merging, a story emerges as one type of active galaxy changes into another. NGC 6240 provides an important "missing link" in this process.

This image was created from combined data from the infrared array camera of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope at 3.6 and 8.0 microns (red) and visible light from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (green and blue).

About the Object

NGC 6240
Galaxy > Type > Interacting
Galaxy > Activity > AGN
Galaxy > Activity > Starburst
Galaxy > Activity > Ultraluminous
400,000,000 Light Years

Color Mapping

Band Wavelength Telescope
Optical 440 nm Hubble ACS
Infrared 900 nm Hubble ACS
Infrared 3.6 µm Spitzer IRAC
Infrared 8.0 µm Spitzer IRAC


Position (J2000)
RA =16h 52m 59.7s
Dec = 2° 24' 3.8"
Field of View
3.3 x 3.2 arcminutes
North is 74.7° left of vertical