<p>A galactic collision sparked a powerful "explosion" of star formation that until now had been hidden from view by a cloak of dense gases, as seen in a <a id="kg4g" title="NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope" href="http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/">NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope</a> picture released last week.</p><p>Known as II Zw 096, the object&nbsp; was once a merging pair of pinwheel-shaped galaxies, but the act of colliding has ripped one of the spirals to shreds. As the galaxies merge, giant clouds of gas inside them pass through each other, forming dense pockets of matter that collapse into new stars.</p><p>The burst of star formation (red blob at center) seen by Spitzer's infrared eye spans just 700 light-years. Based on its brightness, astronomers think the region is cranking out a hundred times the sun's mass in new stars each year.</p>

Cosmic Train Wreck

A galactic collision sparked a powerful "explosion" of star formation that until now had been hidden from view by a cloak of dense gases, as seen in a NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope picture released last week.

Known as II Zw 096, the object  was once a merging pair of pinwheel-shaped galaxies, but the act of colliding has ripped one of the spirals to shreds. As the galaxies merge, giant clouds of gas inside them pass through each other, forming dense pockets of matter that collapse into new stars.

The burst of star formation (red blob at center) seen by Spitzer's infrared eye spans just 700 light-years. Based on its brightness, astronomers think the region is cranking out a hundred times the sun's mass in new stars each year.

Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/H. Inami

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