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

Resembling something similar to a giant cosmic lollipop (though we can be sure that it would taste nothing like one), is Arp 302 (also known as UGC 9618 VV 340), which can be found some 450 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Boötes.

This particular image features two separate galaxies that are currently interacting gravitationally (at least they were 450 million years ago, when the light we are seeing now first started its trip to our corner of the universe), They collectively comprise the 302nd entry (out of 338) in Arp's Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies, produced by Halton Arp last century.

The galaxy forming the "stick" of our cosmic lollipop is VV 340A (viewed edge-on). The other galaxy, the actual lollipop, is VV 340B. Both will eventually collide and merge in the future, kicking off an era of star formation, similar to the one our galaxy will undergo when it finally meets the Andromeda galaxy in some 5 billion years time.

See a larger image here.

Colliding Galaxies: The Universe in Motion:


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