As the Hubble Space Telescope stares deep into the cosmos, there’s not one spot in the sky (no matter how apparently “empty” it appears) that isn’t filled with thousands of galaxies. Indeed, the famous Hubble Ultra-Deep Field observation of a nondescript portion of inky black space is buzzing with exquisite galaxies of all shapes and sizes.
Often these Hubble observations can look like a “soup” — where the ingredients are countless galaxies, each one filled with billions of stars. Now Hubble has zoomed in on a couple of these galactic ingredients, showing just how strange some of the galaxies billions of light-years away can appear.
Shown here are two galactic objects that don’t appear to conform to the elegant structure of spiral galaxies like our own Milky Way. Called 2MASX J16133219+5103436 (bottom) and its bluish companion SDSS J161330.18+510335 (top), together they make up a galactic pair called Zw I 136. As a comparison, a clearly defined spiral galaxy can be seen to the right of the image.
The galactic pair are located in close proximity to one another, and they appear to be interacting gravitationally. Both are disturbed, with extended, fuzzy halos of stars being tugged away from their galactic homes.
For us to better understand galactic evolution and how that evolution corresponds to their shape and star formation, galactic pairs such as this are important to study, an endeavor that Hubble continues to provide mind blowing imagery for.