Colliding Galaxies

Hubble captures two galaxies colliding.  Image: Credit: NASA and ESA Acknowledgment: A. Gal-Yam (Weizmann Institute of Science)
Hubble captures two galaxies colliding. Image: Credit: NASA and ESA Acknowledgment: A. Gal-Yam (Weizmann Institute of Science)

This is an amazing image. Hubblesite has a “zoomable” version of this and I’ve been trying to count the smaller more distant galaxies – I’m at 22 other than the two subjects of the image.

This NASA Hubble Space Telescope photo of NGC 7714 presents an especially striking view of the galaxy’s smoke-ring-like structure. The golden loop is made of sun-like stars that have been pulled deep into space, far from the galaxy’s center. The galaxy is located approximately 100 million light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Pisces.
The universe is full of such galaxies that are gravitationally stretched and pulled and otherwise distorted in gravitational tug-o’-wars with bypassing galaxies.

The companion galaxy doing the “taffy pulling” in this case, NGC 7715, lies just out of the field of view in this image. A very faint bridge of stars extends to the unseen companion. The close encounter has compressed interstellar gas to trigger bursts of star formation seen in bright blue arcs extending around NGC 7714’s center.

The gravitational disruption of NGC 7714 began between 100 million and 200 million years ago, at the epoch when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.

The image was taken with the Wide Field Camera 3 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys in October 2011.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

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