Hubble spots galaxies in close encounter

Jun 20, 2013
This image shows the two galaxies interacting. NGC 2936, once a standard spiral galaxy, and NGC 2937, a smaller elliptical, bear a striking resemblance to a penguin guarding its egg. This image is a combination of visible and infrared light, created from data gathered by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Planetary Camera 3 (WFC3). Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

(Phys.org) —The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has produced this vivid image of a pair of interacting galaxies known as Arp 142. When two galaxies stray too close to each other they begin to interact, causing spectacular changes in both objects. In some cases the two can merge—but in others, they are ripped apart.

Just below the centre of this image is the blue, twisted form of galaxy NGC 2936, one of the two that form Arp 142 in the constellation of Hydra. Nicknamed "the Penguin" or "the Porpoise" by , NGC 2936 used to be a standard before being torn apart by the gravity of its cosmic companion.

The remnants of its can still be seen—the former now forms the "eye" of the penguin, around which it is still possible to see where the galaxy's pinwheeling arms once were. These disrupted arms now shape the cosmic bird's "body" as bright streaks of blue and red across the image. These streaks arch down towards NGC 2936's nearby companion, the NGC 2937, visible here as a bright white oval. The pair show an uncanny resemblance to a penguin safeguarding its egg.

The effects of gravitational interaction between galaxies can be devastating. The Arp 142 pair are close enough together to interact violently, exchanging matter and causing havoc.

In the upper part of the image are two , both of which lie in the foreground of the Arp 142 pair. One of these is surrounded by a trail of sparkling blue material, which is actually another galaxy. This galaxy is thought to be too far away to play a role in the interaction—the same is true of the galaxies peppered around the body of NGC 2936. In the background are the blue and red elongated shapes of many other galaxies, which lie at vast distances from us—but which can all be seen by the sharp eye of Hubble.

This pair of galaxies is named after the American astronomer Halton Arp, the creator of the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies, a catalogue of weirdly-shaped galaxies that was originally published in 1966. Arp compiled the catalogue in a bid to understand how galaxies evolved and changed shape over time, something he felt to be poorly understood. He chose his targets based on their strange appearances, but astronomers later realised that many of the objects in Arp's catalogue were in fact interacting and merging galaxies.

This image is a combination of visible and infrared light, created from data gathered by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Planetary Camera 3 (WFC3).

Explore further: Hubble shows farthest lensing galaxy yields clues to early universe

Related Stories

A family portrait of galaxies

Sep 06, 2012

(Phys.org)—Two very different galaxies feature in this family portrait taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, together forming a peculiar galaxy pair called Arp 116. The image shows the dramatic ...

Hubble captures image of the Arp 274 group of galaxies

Aug 25, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Arp 274, also known as NGC 5679, is a system of three galaxies that appear to be partially overlapping in the image, although they may be at somewhat different distances. The spiral shapes ...

A spiral galaxy in Hydra

Apr 09, 2012

(Phys.org) -- This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows NGC 4980, a spiral galaxy in the southern constellation of Hydra. The shape of NGC 4980 appears slightly deformed, something which is ...

Hubble sees cosmic "flying V" of merging galaxies

Feb 18, 2013

This large "flying V" is actually two distinct objects—a pair of interacting galaxies known as IC 2184. Both the galaxies are seen almost edge-on in the large, faint northern constellation of Camelopardalis ...

Space Image: When galaxies collide

Oct 21, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- This interacting pair of galaxies is included in Arp's catalog of peculiar galaxies as number 148. Arp 148 is the staggering aftermath of an encounter between two galaxies, resulting in a ...

Hubble image: Don't trust your eyes

Dec 31, 2012

(Phys.org)—The Universe loves to fool our eyes, giving the impression that celestial objects are located at the same distance from Earth. A good example can be seen in this spectacular image produced by ...

Recommended for you

Fermi satellite detects gamma-rays from exploding novae

Jul 31, 2014

The Universe is home to a variety of exotic objects and beautiful phenomena, some of which can generate almost inconceivable amounts of energy. ASU Regents' Professor Sumner Starrfield is part of a team that ...

Image: Hubble serves a slice of stars

Jul 31, 2014

The thin, glowing streak slicing across this image cuts a lonely figure, with only a few foreground stars and galaxies in the distant background for company.

User comments : 0