NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)

Two interacting galaxies embrace each other to form a cursive letter “E” in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of VV 705.

Explore the image of the merging galaxies also known as Markarian 848. Two long, curved and distorted arms of gas and dust arc away from the galactic cores. The cores sit side-by-side, only 16,000 light-years apart. Follow the spiral arm of the top galaxy as it curves up and then merges with an arm of the lower galaxy. Mangled dust lanes snake around the orange-yellow cores. Red, yellow and orange star colors usually indicate older stars. Our Sun is a yellow star about halfway through its expected lifespan of 8 billion years. Hot, blue, new stars are scattered throughout the outer spiral arms. Galaxy collisions stretch and pull the graceful spiral arms into thin, twisted knots of gas and dust. This concentration of the very material that makes up stars gives birth to new stars. The dim spiral arm arching behind the galaxies, which is probably the stretched remains of the original spiral arm, is dominated with yellow stars. Dimly glowing in the background of this deep image of the universe is a myriad of background galaxies.

Astronomers believe the galaxies that make up VV 705 are only halfway through their merger. The two spiral galaxies still have millions of years before they form a single, larger galaxy. VV 705 is located about 550 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation Bootes, the Bear Watcher.