Image: Hubble's twisted galaxy

August 21, 2017, NASA
Credit: NASA/Hubble/ESA 

Gravity governs the movements of the cosmos. It draws flocks of galaxies together to form small groups and more massive galaxy clusters, and brings duos so close that they begin to tug at one another. This latter scenario can have extreme consequences, with members of interacting pairs of galaxies often being dramatically distorted, torn apart, or driven to smash into one another, abandoning their former identities and merging to form a single accumulation of gas, dust and stars.

The subject of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, IC 1727, is currently interacting with its near neighbor, NGC 672 (which is just out of frame). The pair's interactions have triggered peculiar and intriguing phenomena within both objects—most noticeably in IC 1727. The galaxy's structure is visibly twisted and asymmetric, and its bright nucleus has been dragged off-center.

In interacting galaxies such as these, astronomers often see signs of intense (in episodic flurries known as starbursts) and spot newly-formed star clusters. They are thought to be caused by gravity churning, redistributing and compacting the gas and . In fact, astronomers have analyzed the star formation within IC 1727 and NGC 672 and discovered something interesting—observations show that simultaneous bursts of star formation occurred in both galaxies some 20 to 30 and 450 to 750 million years ago. The most likely explanation for this is that the galaxies are indeed an interacting pair, approaching each other every so often and swirling up gas and dust as they pass close by.

Explore further: Image: Hubble's cosmic atlas

Related Stories

Image: Hubble's cosmic atlas

July 28, 2017

This beautiful clump of glowing gas, dark dust and glittering stars is the spiral galaxy NGC 4248, located about 24 million light-years away in the constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs).

Galactic David and Goliath

July 27, 2017

The gravitational dance between two galaxies in our local neighbourhood has led to intriguing visual features in both as witnessed in this new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image. The tiny NGC 1510 and its colossal neighbour ...

Image: Hubble observes galaxies' evolution in slow motion

September 21, 2015

It is known today that merging galaxies play a large role in the evolution of galaxies and the formation of elliptical galaxies in particular. However there are only a few merging systems close enough to be observed in depth. ...

Hubble scopes out a galaxy of stellar birth

June 26, 2017

This image displays a galaxy known as ESO 486-21 (with several other background galaxies and foreground stars visible in the field as well). ESO 486-21 is a spiral galaxy—albeit with a somewhat irregular and ill-defined ...

Recommended for you

Gravitational waves could shed light on dark matter

October 22, 2018

The forthcoming Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) will be a huge instrument allowing astronomers to study phenomena including black holes colliding and gravitational waves moving through space-time. Researchers from ...

Scientist explores a better way to predict space weather

October 22, 2018

Findings recently published by a Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) space scientist shed new light on predicting the thermodynamics of solar flares and other "space weather" events involving hot, fast-moving plasmas.

Astronomers propose a new method for detecting black holes

October 22, 2018

A stellar mass black hole is a compact object with a mass greater than three solar masses. It is so dense and has such a powerful force of attraction that not even light can escape from it. They cannot be observed directly, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.