Space is absolutely chock full of mysteries. That’s why we’ve built things like space telescopes, and even sent some satellites out into the vast reaches of the unknown expanse surrounding us. These spacecraft have brought us a lot of information over the years, and some new ones will help bring even more. But, just because we have shiny new toys like the James Webb Space Telescope now, doesn’t mean that an older spacecraft like the Hubble telescope is out of a job just yet. In fact, the older space telescope has delivered yet another delightful image. This time it’s given us an amazing look at three galaxies merging and it’s absolutely breathtaking.
These three galaxies merging have left a cloud of dust in their wake
Galactic mergers aren’t exactly a new thing. Hubble captured two galaxies merging earlier this year, and it’s predicted that the Milky Way will collide with the Andromeda galaxy sometime in 4.5 billion years. What this new image does, though, is give us a good look at the wake of such galaxy mergers.
The latest image from Hubble showcases three galaxies well into their merger. The result is a cluster of stars and planets inside of a thick cloud of dust. It’s a beautiful photo, though I’m sure the swirling distortions caused by the three different gravity fields from the galaxies are tumultuous up close. Still, seeing galaxies merging like this, especially as far away as this one is, is one of the marvels of the spacecraft that we’ve put into the dark unknown around us.
The image showcases a recently renamed trio of galaxies now known as IC 2431. The merging galaxies are located around 681 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Cancer.
Thanks for the help, Galaxy Zoo
The new image is part of a series of Hubble observations found by the Galaxy Zoo project. Galaxy Zoo is a citizen science project. The project previously carried out the largest galactic census ever. The original project relied on crowdsourcing time from over 100,000 volunteers. The project classified 900,000 galaxies, all of which had been unexamined at the time. The Galaxy Zoo project is responsible for some of the largest studies of galaxy mergers. It has also led to the discovery of entirely new galaxies.
Seeing these three galaxies merging is another reminder that everything we know about space is constantly changing. With galaxies slowly moving towards each other, it’s only a matter of time until we capture more images like this. Perhaps in the future, those merging galaxies may be even closer to Earth, giving us an even closer look.