Hubble Telescope Captures Two Colliding Galaxies Conducting Deadly Dance

First Posted: Jun 20, 2013 02:35 PM EDT

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a new, spectacular image of two galaxies colliding. The interacting galaxies, known as Arp 142, are currently conducting a dance that will either lead to their eventual merge--or their mutual destruction.

When two galaxies stray too close to one another, they begin to interact, causing spectacular changes in both objects. Just below the center of this image, you can see the blue, twisted form of galaxy NGC 2936 in the constellation Hydra. Nicknamed "The Penguin" or "the Porpoise" by amateur astronomers, this galaxy used to be a standard spiral before being torn apart by the gravity of its companion.

The other galaxy, known as the elliptical galaxy NGC 2937 can actually be seen here as a bright white oval. With a little imagination, you can imagine it looks like an egg being guarded by the penguin-like NGC 2936.

The penguin's "head" is formed from the remnants of the spiral galaxy. You can see that the former galactic bulge forms the "eye" of the penguin. The disrupted arms of this galaxy now shape the bird's "body" as bright streaks of blue and red across the image.

These galaxies aren't the only things you can see in this image, though. You can also spot two bright stars in the upper part of the picture. This pair lies in the foreground of Arp 142. One is surrounded by a trail of sparkling blue material, which is actually another galaxy that's thought to be too far away to play a part in the interacting NGC 2936 and NGC 2937. This isn't the only galaxy nearby, either. The blue and red elongated shapes of many others pepper the background, though they're also too far away to make any kind of an impact.

Want to learn more about galactic mergers? Check out the video below, courtesy of ESA and Hubble.

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