Some consider the Hubble Space Telescope’s “deep field” images among the observatory’s most profound achievements, showing the cosmos is populated by countless galaxies across timescales stretching back to within a few hundred million years of the Big Bang. This Hubble look at galaxy cluster S 295, dominating the central region of this image, offers an equally mesmerising view with a wide range of galaxies mingled with foreground stars. The combined gravity of the galaxy cluster distorts the space around it, causing the light of background galaxies to smear out in variety of shapes. Says the European Space Agency’s “picture of the week” description: “As well as providing astronomers with a natural magnifying glass with which to study distant galaxies, gravitational lensing has subtly framed the centre of this image, producing a visually striking scene.”
The subject of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is known as NGC 3597. It is the product of a collision between two good-sized galaxies, and is slowly evolving to become a giant elliptical galaxy. This type of galaxy has grown more and more common as the universe has evolved, with initially small galaxies merging and progressively building up into larger galactic structures over time.