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

Galaxy interactions are always impressive. ESO 593-8 looks like the letter “Y,” swooping eagle or a feather. Explore the NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of these merging galaxies. Do you see any patterns? What stories can you tell?

The two spiral galaxies will probably merge to form a single galaxy in the future. Look for dark lanes of dust and bright blue star clusters at the outer fringes of the galaxies. When galaxies interact, gas and dust are pushed together. The gas and dust can collapse under its own gravity and new stars are formed. However, exist­ing stars them­selves are not really dis­rupted by the merger. After sev­eral mil­lion years, the black holes at the center of these galaxies will merge and the stars will set­tle into new orbits around a new galac­tic cen­ter.

A number of faint background galaxies can be found throughout the image. The bright stars are foreground stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy.

ESO 593-8 lies about 650 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation Sagittarius, the Archer. A light-year is the distance light travels in a year; about 6 trillion miles. When light left this galaxy pair, many geologists believe Earth’s surface was almost entirely covered by ice in what’s known as Snowball Earth or Marinoan Glaciation. But the planet was on the verge of a sudden explosion in the diversity in life. During the later Proterozoic, bacteria and green algae were common in the seas of Earth. Soft-bodied worms swam in these seas. Animals had not yet ventured onto land.