After a brief stint offline in 2008 due to system malfunctions, the Hubble Telescope aimed its Wide Field Planetary Camera out into deep space to capture this lovely pair. Though the points of light look vaguely like a lens flare, this image demonstrated that Hubble was back in perfect working order.
Gravitational interactions between the two galaxies have given them both their curious shapes, earning them a spot in the Arp Catalog of Peculiar Galaxies as Arp 147. The pair can be found 400 million light-years away in the constellation of Cetus.
The bright blue knots in the galaxy on the right are lively areas of star formation. At some point in this pair’s history, the left galaxy likely passed through its companion. Like a stone thrown into water, it created “ripples” of higher matter density upon impact. As the resulting shockwave pushed the matter outwards, the ring of star formation was created. The reddish blotches in the right galaxy is likely what’s left of the nucleus.
Galactic collisions, much like anything else in nature, are a delicate balance of creation and destruction. Though the original galaxy’s shape has been obliterated, the resulting star formation has given rise to a beautiful new configuration.
Image: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio (STScI)