NASA released a spooky image recently of two galaxies which are merging, nearly 700 million light years away. The image is notable, not only because of the absolute chaos that must be happening as the result of billions of stars swirling about in a cosmic superstorm, but because the image looks like a ghostly human face. The Hubble space telescope captured the image of the two ring galaxies colliding. Although this display will last another 100 million years for us, the formation ended about 600 million years ago in that region, because of space and time.
According to NASA:
Each “eye” is the bright core of a galaxy, one of which slammed into another. The outline of the face is a ring of young blue stars. Other clumps of new stars form a nose and mouth. The entire system is catalogued as Arp-Madore 2026-424 (AM 2026-424), from the Arp-Madore “Catalogue of Southern Peculiar Galaxies and Associations.”
NASA via Hubblesite.com
Although galaxy collisions are common—especially back in the young universe—most of them are not head-on smashups, like the collision that likely created this Arp-Madore system. The violent encounter gives the system an arresting “ring” structure for only a short amount of time, about 100 million years. The crash pulled and stretched the galaxies’ disks of gas, dust, and stars outward. This action formed the ring of intense star formation that shapes the nose and face.
This came after NASA released the famous Halloween picture that we covered before: