Hubble Telescope Captures an Impressive Galactic Collision
Some of the flashiest and most gigantic events we've seen out in space involve galaxies colliding into each other. A galactic merger is never a simple process, but it's something to see.
A photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope is a good example of just how a big a toll a collision takes on a galaxy. Within the constellation of Cetus ("the sea monster", or sometimes called "the whale") are two spiral galaxies in the middle of a very slow merger about 350 million lightyears away.
Together, the galaxies are known as Arp 256, as they will be a single galaxy soon enough. Check out the photo below:
As the two galaxies grow even more distorted in shape until they finally combine, even more stars are going to form in the rubble. Much of the blue material in the photo is interstellar gas and dust which serve as a stellar nursery, accumulating enough materials to eventually set off the formation of new stars.
While these types of galactic crashes are thought to have been more common toward the beginning of the universe, they're not uncommon today. And while this image technically occurred millions of years ago, a relatively small time frame on a universal scale, collisions are common sights in the night sky if you have extremely powerful telescopes like Hubble.
Why, our own Milky Way is set to collide with the nearby Andromeda galaxy eventually, and it may look very much like this image.
The image was originally taken by Hubble back in 2008, but has just been rereleased with a number of touch-ups.