Two galaxies intertwine in a turbulent gravitational dance in a stunning new image from the Hubble Space Telescope.
The pair includes the large spiral galaxy NGC 3227 and the elliptical galaxy NGC 3226. The galaxies, collectively known as Arp 94, are located relatively close to Earth, at a distance of 50 million to 60 million light-years, near the constellation Leo. .
The new Hubble Space Telescope view shows faint tidal flows of gas and dust connecting NGC 3227 and NGC 3226 in their gravitational dance. Observations of this duet were recorded as part of a program to measure black holes at the center of bright cluster galaxies, according to a statement from NASA. (opens in new tab)†
Related: The best Hubble Space Telescope images of all time!
NGC 3227 is classified as a Seyfert galaxy, a type of galaxy that has an active core and is powered by a supermassive black hole at its core. As the black hole draws material from its environment, it releases massive amounts of radiation, which fuels the galaxy’s active core.
Hubble was used to measure the mass of the galaxy’s black hole by observing the dynamics of the inflowing gas into the core. The space telescope, according to the NASA statement, captured both visible red and near-infrared wavelengths, represented by the red areas of the image.
NGC 3227 is captured in the lower-left corner of the Hubble image, while NGC 3226 is located in the upper-right corner of its companion. The new image, released by NASA on May 25, provides a detailed view of NGC 3227’s dark dust lanes and bright star-forming regions, along with the bright streams of material connecting the two galaxies. Previous Hubble observations suggest these streamers are remnants of a third galaxy likely consumed by NGC 3226, which in turn would have scattered shreds of gas and dust through space, NASA reported in 2014 (opens in new tab)†
Previous observations also suggest that NGC 3226 has a very slow star formation rate, despite the large streams of gas and dust — debris from the cannibalized galaxy — flowing into its core.
Follow Samantha Mathewson @Sam_Ashley13. follow us on Twitter @spacedotcom and further facebook†