Image Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)

This peculiar object is IC1623: a pair of interacting galaxy found within the confines of the Cetus constellation (approximately 250 million light years from Earth). Like pretty much every galaxy pair involved in a gravitational merger, IC1623 bears heavy scars, only these scars become less noticeable over time, when the newer (not to mention, larger) galaxy is reshaped into something more recognizable.

At the moment, both progenitor galaxies remain somewhat separate from the other. One of them, called VV 114E, is incredibly bright at infrared wavelengths, but virtually hidden at optical wavelengths. Regardless, astronomers were able to surmise that the galaxy contains a plethora of warm and dense gaseous material. These regions are also known to directly overlap the bridge that connects the nuclei from both galaxies.

Noticeably missing, however, is clear evidence of vigorous star formation activity, which generally comes in one of the final stages of a gravitational merger, whereby the "violent central inflow of gas will trigger intense starburst activity that could boost the infrared luminosity above the ultra-luminous threshold," sparking the transition into a new kind of galaxy. Perhaps this pair will eventually resemble the Arp 220 system.

According to the ESA/Hubble Team, "This image is part of a large collection of 59 images of merging galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and released on the occasion of its 18th anniversary on 24th April 2008."

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