Apparent galactic train wreck actually widely separated galaxies in chance alignment

This Hubble Space Telescope image, and one from the European Southern Observatory, provide two views of a pair of galaxies that appear to be smashing into each other in a cosmic collision. But don’t be fooled. The face-on spiral galaxy is actually about 117 million light years from Earth while other is some 140 million light years away. They appear to be colliding thanks to a chance alignment when viewed from Earth. In the wider-angle ESO view below Hubble’s stunning close up, a dim, yellowish smudge can be seen toward the lower right, an ultra-diffuse galaxy and one of the faintest in the Hydra I galaxy cluster. UDG are extremely faint and lack the star forming gas of galaxy’s like the Milky way.

Two galaxies that appear to be colliding are actually separated by millions of light years. NASA says the odds of such a precise alignment along line of sight from Earth are about 1-in-100,000. Image (top): NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and W. Keel (University of Alabama); bottom image with ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope: ESO/Iodice et al.