NGC 7252 is the resulting objects of two galaxies colliding with each others a billion years ago. Because of its loop-like sturcutres, made of stars and dust, that resemble a diagram of an electron orbiting an atomic nucleus, NGC 7252 also bears the nickname Atoms-for-Peace.
This galactic pile-up provides astronomers an excellent opportunity to study how mergers between galaxies affect the evolution of the Universe. In studying similar objects we can already predict that in a few billion years NGC 7252 will have completed its merging process and will have finished its transformation in an elliptical galaxy.
The Milky way will probably undergo a similar evolution as NGC 7252 after its collision with the Andromeda galaxy in the far future.
Francois Schweizer (CIW/DTM)