Hubble catches galactic pair locked in a gravitational dance
The Hubble Space Telescope has treated us to another spectacular view of two enormous galaxies locked in a cosmic embrace. The image showcases an early stage of a galactic encounter, and highlights the chaotic effect that gravity can have on one of the grandest scales imaginable.
Massive things attract other things. This simple fact can be used to explain some of the most incredible processes that take place in the universe.
It’s one of the key reasons that the Earth and its planetary siblings travel in nice, semi-orderly orbits around the Sun, and why mindbogglingly large galaxies are attracted to one another, often with spectacular consequences.
Hubble has captured a moment in time when two large galaxies residing 250 million light years away - known collectively as Arp 293 – can be seen in the early stages of performing a cosmic waltz.
The galaxy on the left, which is called NGC 6285, is being slowly deformed by its dance partner. Wisps of gas and other matter are being tugged away from the outer regions of the disk, distorting and blurring its appearance.
To the right, NGC 6286, is positioned edge on to the Earth, meaning that we will only ever see the profile of its galactic plane.
Arp 293’s story is far from unique. Hubble has captured a treasure trove of galactic interactions, each one a unique and striking vista that belies the chaotic violence underpinning the events.