(ORDO NEWS) — The ongoing interaction between two galaxies 320 million light-years away is captured in this magnificent Hubble image.
They are collectively known as Arp 282 in the Halton Arp Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies and consist of a large spiral galaxy called NGC 169, about 140,000 light years in diameter, and a much smaller polar ring galaxy called IC 1559, about 40,000 light years in diameter.
These two galaxies have become so close that they are exchanging material. This is not unusual: although space is huge and mostly empty, galaxies are gravitationally attracted to each other, perhaps along the strands of an invisible cosmic web that plays a vital role in shaping the universe.
Interactions between galaxies make a significant contribution to their evolution, whether it’s just a flyby accompanied by an exchange of matter, or a complete merger, as happened several times in the history of the Milky Way.
These interactions can change the shape of a galaxy or cause shock waves that ignite star formation, effectively reviving a galaxy whose star formation rate is declining.
There are several notable interactions between NGC 169 and IC 1559. First, both galaxies have active galactic nuclei; that is, the supermassive black holes at the core of each are actively consuming dust and gas.
This process produces a lot of high-energy light in the form of X-rays and heat in the infrared wavelengths; The Hubble image is in optical light, which is obscured by dust in the cores of galaxies.
“When two galaxies interact, gas, dust and even entire star systems will be pulled from one galaxy to another by these tidal forces,” the ESA explained.
“This process can be seen in action in the image as subtle streams of matter have formed, clearly linking the two galaxies.”
If two galaxies converge close enough to each other, they will eventually merge and their supermassive black holes will converge in a massive event that will send gravitational waves throughout the universe.
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