The wonders of space never cease to amaze.
Featured in the above picture and in the process of being created is galaxy NGC 6052, a galaxy 230 million light years away, in the constellation Hercules.
At first glance, one may think that this is an image of an irregular galaxy. An irregular galaxy is a galaxy without a distinct shape, such as the spiral or elliptical shapes that are common.
The structure has since been confirmed to be two galaxies merging.
NASA said in a statement, “Two separate galaxies have been gradually drawn together, attracted by gravity, and have collided. We now see them merging into a single structure.”
NASA further adds, “As the merging process continues, individual stars are thrown out of their original orbits and placed onto entirely new paths, some very distant from the region of the collision itself. Since the stars produce the light we see, the “galaxy” now appears to have a highly chaotic shape. Eventually, this new galaxy will settle down into a stable shape, which may not resemble either of the two original galaxies.”
Galaxy mergers are a frequent spectacle in the universe.
In fact, an irregular galaxy is often the result of a merger between a smaller galaxy and a larger galaxy. Meanwhile, it is also suggested that elliptical galaxies form from two merging spiral galaxies.
The image of galaxy NGC 6052 was taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.