Hubble captures a trio of galaxies crashing together in a cosmic merger

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a bird’s eye view of three galaxies in the constellation Bootes that are in the process of crashing together in a slow-motion merger that eventually will produce a single massive starswarm. A closer galaxy stands alone to the left amid numerous much more distant background galaxies. The three colliding galaxies are within just 50,000 light years of each other, a stone’s throw as intergalactic distances go. For comparison, the nearest large galaxy to the Milky Way – Andromeda – is some 2.5 million light years away. The ongoing merger was observed as part of an ongoing study to understand the origins of the most massive galaxies in the cosmos.

A trio of merging galaxes as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. Image: ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. Sun