Image Credit: Gemini Observatory, GMOS-South, NSF

This pair of interacting galaxies is known as Arp 271. They are located about 90-million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Virgo. The structure spans a distance of 130,000 light-years; about a third larger than the diameter of the Milky Way.

Individually, these galaxies are known as NGC 5426 and NGC 5427. They are in the midst of a galactic merger. In the upcoming few billion years, these galaxies will successfully merge together into one larger galactic structure. This is a similar fate that awaits the Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies in the next few billion years. In this particular case, a bridge of material has formed between the two galaxies. Gravitational stresses in that bridge and along the spiral arms is in the igniting star formation at a feverish rate.

It is worth noting that in a galaxy collision, stars and solar systems are largely unaffected. It would be extremely rare for two star systems to collide with each other. The worst that could practically happen is a star system gets ejected from the galaxies and drifts off into interstellar space. That would be a fantastic view for any civilizations living in those systems.


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