The Hubble Space Telescope has captured an image of a fleeing galaxy 60 million light-years away. The image was shared on Hubble’s site Monday.
The galaxy is known as NGC 7513 and it can be found in the Sculptor constellation in the skies over the Southern Hemisphere.
Similar to our Milky Way galaxy, it’s a barred spiral galaxy. That means that the spiral galaxy features a central structure of stars shaped like a bar. This structure can affect the movement of the stars as well as the gas within the galaxy.
The galaxy appears to be moving away from the Milky Way at almost 3.5 million mph, according to the Hubble site.
The Earth, meanwhile orbits the sun at 67,108 mph.
But this movement away from our galaxy isn’t entirely surprising. Many galaxies seem to be moving in the opposite directions because the universe is expanding. As that expansion occurs, the space between each galaxy stretches.
The Hubble Space Telescope was named for pioneering astronomer Edwin Hubble. His work led to the revelation that our galaxy was one of many, forever changing our perspective and place in the universe. Hubble continued his work and discovered that distant galaxies appeared to be moving rapidly, suggesting that we live in an expanding universe that started with a big bang.
While some galaxies appear to move apart, others are trapped in a death dance orchestrated by gravity. The Milky Way is on a collision course with the Andromeda galaxy. Billions of years from now, they will merge together.
The Andromeda galaxy is our largest and closest neighbor in the universe.
Galaxies are more competitive with each other than friendly. To keep growing, large galaxies like the Milky Way and Andromeda had voracious appetites in the past. Being such a large galaxy, Andromeda was surrounded by smaller galaxies. It’s thought to have consumed hundreds of them over the last few billion years.
This isn’t the only collision threat facing the Milky Way. The Large Magellanic Cloud will catastrophically collide with the Milky Way in 2 billion years, according to a study published last year in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Our galaxy is orbited by smaller satellite galaxies, the kind of dance that can go on undisturbed for billions of years. Other times, things take a violent turn, and satellite galaxies can migrate toward the Milky Way until they collide and are gobbled up.
For 30 years, the Hubble Space Telescope has captured the surprising and violent interactions of galaxies, changing the way we view and understand the universe. And astronomers hope this will continue in the years to come.