A ghostly image returns to us through 704 million light beams. years of interstellar space, in what is actually a galactic collision of epic proportions.
With galaxies for eyes and rings of gas and dust for its face, the Arp-Madore system is a truly stunning vision. The NASA / ESA Hubble Space Telescope captured this striking image back in June, but the lovely people at Hubble released it this week in honor of Halloween and all things scary.
This system is scientifically interesting, in addition to its ability to cause pareidolia – when we see faces in inanimate objects.
These two galaxies point directly at each other in a slow-moving intergalactic head – for collision, not for sight. The Arp-Madore system is also cool, since the two galaxies are about the same size. Most galactic collisions involve a larger object that includes a smaller object, according to Hubble.
We also look at this collision at a really random time. The forces involved in the collision pulled the gas and dust out, forming a temporary ring-like structure. This, in turn, can mislead our eyes to interpret shapes like forehead, jaw, and nose. And of course, the two galaxies are the "eyes."
This ring will last 100 million years (which is not a long time cosmologically) and galaxies will merge completely in about one to two billion years, after which the ring will be long gone.
Galactic collisions are quite common and we ourselves are prepared for such a heavenly fire. In about 4 billion years, the Milky Way will collide with the Andromeda Galaxy, in the event that it radically changes the shape of both, since the two two galaxies will merge to become one.