Space is a messy place, filled with explosions and collisions and excessive temperatures. But normally, we do not get to see the most important of those fireworks—when complete galaxies collide. That’s the sight captured by this photograph, snapped by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
The scene is unfolding about 350 million light-years away (which additionally means the drama started 350 million years in the past) in a constellation known as Cetus, which appears like a sea monster. But regardless of the dramatic shot, the collision has solely simply begun, and it will take thousands and thousands of years earlier than the galaxies fully merge.
Because the 2 galaxies are so shut to one another and every comprise so many large stars, the higher galaxy is displaying a function known as a tidal tail, the messy stream of stars created by the gravity of 1 galaxy tugging at one other.
That’s why these two galaxies already share a reputation, though they’re nonetheless distinct objects. Astronomers classify methods like this as “peculiar galaxies” as a result of some form of interplay has induced a bizarre trait, like additional mud or a wierd form. Peculiar galaxies are notably intriguing to review as a result of they’ll train us how galaxies evolve over billions of years.
Our personal Milky Way is not immune from celestial collisions. Scientists now believe that absorbing a small galaxy is what kicked among the Milky Way’s stars out above the principle disk, right into a area scientists name its halo.
And there’s an much more dramatic collision to return in our future: Astronomers have predicted that the Milky Way will collide with the Andromeda galaxy. But do not panic, it will not occur for an additional 4 billion years. That’s loads of time to take pleasure in watching different galaxies meet the identical destiny.