Colliding galaxies provide a Hubble harbinger of Halloween

Getting into the Halloween spirit, the Hubble Space Telescope has captured a captivating image showing a ghostly “face” floating in deep space, the aftermath of a head-on collision between two galaxies more than 700 million light years away. The “eyes” are the cores of the two colliding galaxies while the “nose” and “head” are formed by clouds of gas and dust pulled into active star-forming regions.

Colliding galaxies, known as Arp-Madore 2026-424, as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys on 19 June. Image: NASA, ESA, J. Dalcanton, B.F. Williams, and M. Durbin (University of Washington)

Known as Arp-Madore 2026-424, the galactic train wreck is included in a “Catalogue of Southern Peculiar Galaxies and Associations.” Astronomer Halton Arp first assembled a catalogue of 338 unusual-looking galaxies in 1966 and then, working with Barry Madore, extended the search to include interesting galactic encounters across the southern sky. This Hubble image of AM 2026-424 was collected as part of a program to take a closer look at many unique galaxies during gaps in the observatory’s normal observing schedule. The goal is to learn more about how galaxies grow through mergers and to identify future targets for the James Webb Space Telescope after it launches in 2021.

Here is a wide-field view of the region around AM 2026-424.

Image: ESA/Digitized Sky Survey 2
Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin