A new image from the venerable Hubble Space Telescope shows what happens when two galaxies collide. That’s relevant for us residents of the Milky Way, because our own galaxy is expected to collide with the nearby Andromeda galaxy in about four billion years.
The image captures a scene some 230 million light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Hercules. (One light-year is the distance that light travels in a year — about 6 trillion miles, or 10 trillion kilometers.) Here, Hubble zooms in on the merging galaxies, a double object known as NGC 6052.
When NGC 6052 was first cataloged in 1784 by William Herschel, it was classified as a single, irregular galaxy with an odd shape. Now, however, we know that shape is odd because two galaxies are coming together.