Stunning image of two interacting galaxies caught by Hubble Space Telescope, known as UGC 2369, destined to become a single galaxy.
The illustrious Hubble Space Telescope recorded for the first time two galaxies that passed by making contact. The duo featured, known as UGC 2369, is destined to merge one day and become a single galaxy. But the two galaxies are only getting to know each other for now.
In the picture below, as their mutual attraction (read: gravity) draws them closer together, the pair can be seen swirling around each other. According to the European Space Agency (ESA), all that the two galaxies presently connect is a “tenuous bridge of gas, dust and stars,” almost as if holding hands.
Galaxies are extroverts-most of them belong to groups or galactic clusters. Interaction between two or more members in such close quarters is not unusual. The intense gravitational pull can still bend a galaxy out of shape even if a collision is somehow avoided.
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In many respects, this is what makes it so amazing to observe galactic interactions. For example, galaxy fly-bys — where no contact is made — can create permanent warps, bars, and tidal tails that stretch out from the centre of the galaxy, morphing it into unusual shapes, and inducing new star formation bursts.
On the other hand, mergers are much more destructive, and this is particularly true when galaxies are about the same size. These larger events are less prevalent than minor fusions, but it thought that our galaxy has one coming in its future.
The in which we reside right now is busy shredding and absorbing two neighbouring dwarf galaxies, called Sagittarius and Canis Major. But one day it’s our galaxy that might turn into the meal.
Astronomers are quite certain that in the future, at some point, the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxies will collide billions of years. It’s still up for discussion exactly when that might be and how it’s going to play out.
Despite the fresh look of the UGC 2369 merger, this galactic duo is regarded to be in a comparatively advanced phase. Therefore, training Hubble’s eye on such interactions could offer us a glimpse of the destiny of our galaxy.