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A galactic sibling rivalry is taking place millions of light-years away, and the Hubble Space Telescope has captured it in a stunning image.
About 747 million light-years from Earth, a triplet of galaxies is locked in a gravitational tug-of-war that was spied by Hubble as it observed them interacting in the Lynx constellation.
This unique system of galaxies, which is referred to as Arp 195, was featured in the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies. The atlas is a catalog of unusual galaxies across the universe that was compiled and published by astronomer Halton Arp in 1966.
Many of the weirdly wonderful galaxies showcased within the atlas are interacting and merging, like Arp 195.
However, Hubble was able to provide an awe-inspiring new look at this galactic trio, including its signature swirl and oblong streak – which somewhat resembles a bubble releasing from a bubble wand.
The storied space telescope has a busy observation schedule, so astronomers don’t waste any of its precious time – especially since Hubble has already endured for 31 years and is still going strong, despite recent issues that took it out of commission for more than a month.
Occasionally, Hubble is able to take bonus images – like the image of Arp 195 – in between long observation campaigns.
While these extra observations of distinct features in the universe provide beautiful imagery, they can also help astronomers select targets they wish to follow up on using new, upcoming observers, like NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in October.