This multiple pointing, 3-band, near-infrared image obtained with GeMS/GSAOI reveals remarkable, colorful details in NGC 4038, one of the components of the Antennae Galaxies (NGC 4038/NGC 4039), despite a short total exposure time.
The Antennae Galaxies are probably the most recognized pair of interacting disk galaxies in the sky. The popular name comes from the resemblance of their tidal tails to the antennae of an insect, as seen in the wide-field images. The starburst system, only about 10.5 million light-years distant, harbors a rich population of massive young clusters, whose formation has been triggered by the interaction. Considered to be globular cluster progenitors, these objects are resolved in remarkable clarity in the GeMS image of NGC 4038.
“The exquisite data provided by GeMS/GSAOI allows us to differentiate compact star clusters from individual stars, study their integrated-light properties, and set constraints on the underlying stellar populations,” said Gemini South staff astronomer Rodrigo Carrasco, who suggested this target for the System Verification process. “This gives us the ability to extend the study of the star clusters in interacting galaxies to much fainter brightnesses and with greater sharpness. The Antennae illustrate the possible future of our Milky Way when it collides with the Andromeda Galaxy billions of years from now.”