Transforming Galactic Brush

Credit: ESA/NASA Hubble

Even in a wide open Universe, with huge empty expanses between stars, gravity still finds a way to bring galaxies close together as in this deformed galaxy known as Markarian 779.

Zoom into the warped shape of the galaxy in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. What stories or shapes do you see?

Markarian 779 is the galaxy at the top of this image. It’s deformed shape is likely due to a merger between two spiral galaxies. The merger left the galaxy without distinct spiral arms. Gravity has scattered stars into a hazy halo and flung stars into a long string of stars that astronomers call a tidal tail. The tilted galaxy in the lower part of the image has a more regular spiral structure. The bright star in the middle of that galaxy is a chance alignment with a much closer star in our own Milky Way Galaxy. And just to the left of the galaxy, look for another but more distant deformed spiral galaxy. There are dozens of far-off galaxies in this deep image of the Universe.

Markarian 779 is part of a database of more than 1500 galaxies named after B.E. Markarian. Markarian, an Armenian astronomer, surveyed the sky for bright objects with unusually strong ultraviolet radiation. Usually these galaxies are active because of recent galactic interaction, a burst of new star-forming activity or the presence of a supermassive black hole.

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