The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the extraordinary sight of two galaxies colliding in spectacular fashion.
Scientists have just captured an extraordinary event happening deep in space using the Hubble Space Telescope as two galaxies collide about 350 million light years away. The galactic merger, happening within the constellation Cetus and involving two spiral galaxies, are being referred to collectively by scientists as Arp 256.
The extraordinary photo is embedded at the bottom of this article. The galaxies will have their shapes distorted as they yank and tug at each other, finally combining and creating a new, much bigger galaxy in the process. You can see blue material in the photo, which represents gas and dust that will lead to the formation of new stars.
These galactic mergers were probably a lot more common in the early days of the universe, but they are still pretty common. Still, unless you have access to an incredibly powerful telescope like the Hubble, it is impossible to see them as they are so far away.
A galactic collision is on our eventual horizon, although by then humanity probably will be long gone. The Milky Way is on a collision course with the Andromeda Galaxy, and the two will likely merge in about 4 billion years.
“Galaxies are not static islands of stars — they are dynamic and ever-changing, constantly on the move through the darkness of the Universe. Sometimes, as seen in this spectacular Hubble image of Arp 256, galaxies can collide in a crash of cosmic proportions,” reads the statement from the Hubble Space Telescope website. “350 million light-years away in the constellation of Cetus (the Sea Monster), a pair of barred spiral galaxies have just begun a magnificent merger. This image suspends them in a single moment, freezing the chaotic spray of gas, dust and stars kicked up by the gravitational forces pulling the two galaxies together.”
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