The dangerous galactic dance captured 100 million light years away

The two galaxies that make up Arp 91.

The two galaxies that make up Arp 91.

An image from the Hubble Space Telescope of POT / ESA shows two interacting galaxies that are so intertwined that they have a collective name: Arp 91.

Its delicate galactic dance takes place more than 100 million light years from the Land. The two galaxies that comprise Arp 91 have their own names: the lower galaxy, which looks like a bright spot, is NGC 5953, and the oval-shaped galaxy in the upper right is NGC 5954. Both are actually spiral galaxies, but their shapes appear very different due to their orientation relative to Earth.

Arp 91 provides a particularly vivid example of galactic interaction. NGC 5953 is clearly pulling on NGC 5954, which appears to be spiraling downward. The immense gravitational pull of the two galaxies causes them to interact. Such gravitational interactions are common and an important part of galactic evolution, NASA reports.

Most astronomers think that collisions between spiral galaxies lead to the formation of other types of galaxies, known as elliptical galaxies. However, these massive and extremely energetic collisions occur on timescales that dwarf the life of a human being. They take place over hundreds of millions of years, so we shouldn’t expect Arp 91 to look any different in the course of our lives.


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