Hubble Shares Amazing Photo Of A Cosmic Bridge Linking Two Spiral Galaxies
Hubble continues to be utilized as it searches the universe for future candidates for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The iconic telescope is also used for other projects, such as a compilation of strange galaxies called A Catalogue of Southern Peculiar Galaxies and Associations. The project is being curated by Halton Arp and Barry Madore and includes galaxies such as the galactic triplet Arp 248.
Arp 248, also known as Wild's Triplet, lies about 200 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo. The two larger galaxies in the image seem to be connected by a luminous bridge. The bridge is made up of a stream of stars and interstellar dust known as a tidal tail. The tidal tail was created by the mutual gravitational attraction of the two foreground galaxies, according to NASA.
Hubble has observed other galaxies with tidal tails in the past, such as Arp 188, also known as the Tadpole Galaxy. This galactic tadpole is around 420 million light-years away in the constellation Draco. Its tail is about 280 thousand light-years long and features large, bright blue star clusters.
The tadpole's tail is thought to have formed as a more compact intruder galaxy crossed in front of Arp 188, and was then slung around behind the Tadpole by gravitational attraction. As the two galaxies encountered one another, tidal forces extracted stars, gas, and dust forming the incredible tail. Just like a tadpole here on Earth, the galaxy will likely lose its tail as it grows older.
The European Space Agency originally released the image of the galactic bridge back in September, but it recently gained notoriety due to the Milky Way's stars essentially photo-bombing the picture. Hubble has been taking images of deep space for more than thirty years, and is a joint operation between NASA and the European Space Agency.