Return to Heritage Home Page Current Image Gallery Archive Information Center Hubble Art Search
Return to Heritage Home Page Current Release Home Page Caption Fast Facts Biographies Supplemental Material Original Images

Hubble's Interacting Galaxy Collection

Today, in celebration of the Hubble Space Telescope's 18th launch anniversary, 59 views of colliding galaxies constitute the largest collection of Hubble images ever released to the public. This new Hubble atlas dramatically illustrates how galaxy collisions produce a remarkable variety of intricate structures in never-before-seen detail.

Astronomers observe only one out of a million galaxies in the nearby universe in the act of colliding. However, galaxy mergers were much more common long ago when they were closer together, because the expanding universe was smaller. Astronomers study how gravity choreographs their motions in the game of celestial bumper cars and try to observe them in action.

For all their violence, galactic smash-ups take place at a glacial rate by human standards - timescales on the order of several hundred million years. The images in the Hubble atlas capture snapshots of the various merging galaxies at various stages in their collision.

Most of the 59 new Hubble images are part of a large investigation of luminous and ultra- luminous infrared galaxies called the GOALS project (Great Observatories All-sky LIRG Survey). This survey combines observations from Hubble, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, and NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer. The majority of the Hubble observations are led by Aaron S. Evans of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and Stony Brook University.

Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)



Visit the entire gallery of Hubble Interacting Galaxies

NGC 6050/IC 1179 (Arp 272) [image at left, below] is a remarkable collision between two spiral galaxies, NGC 6050 and IC 1179, and is part of the Hercules Galaxy Cluster, located in the constellation of Hercules. The galaxy cluster is part of the Great Wall of clusters and superclusters, the largest known structure in the universe. The two spiral galaxies are linked by their swirling arms. Arp 272 is located some 450 million light-years away from Earth and is the number 272 in Arp's Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies.

Arp 148 [image at right] is the staggering aftermath of an encounter between two galaxies, resulting in a ring-shaped galaxy and a long-tailed companion. The collision between the two parent galaxies produced a shockwave effect that first drew matter into the center and then caused it to propagate outwards in a ring. The elongated companion perpendicular to the ring suggests that Arp 148 is a unique snapshot of an ongoing collision. Infrared observations reveal a strong obscuration region that appears as a dark dust lane across the nucleus in optical light. Arp 148 is nicknamed Mayall s object and is located in the constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear, approximately 500 million light-years away. This interacting pair of galaxies is included in Arp's catalog of peculiar galaxies as number 148.

These images are part of a large collection of 59 images of merging galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and released on the occasion of its 18th anniversary on 24th April 2008.