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NASA Hubble Space Telescope snaps 'squabbling galactic siblings'

The clashing trio earned a spot in the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies.

The odd-looking object Arp 195 is actually three galaxies interacting. 

ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Dalcanton

Galaxies aren't just static entities hanging out in space doing nothing. When they get close to each other, they can collide, push and pull at each other and even merge together. A newly released Hubble Space Telescope image shows what happens when three galaxies interact with each other and act like "squabbling galactic siblings."

Hubble is a joint project of NASA and the European Space Agency. ESA said the image shows a "dramatic triplet of galaxies" engaged in a "three-way gravitational tug-of-war." The system is known as Arp 195, getting its name from astronomer Halton Arp.

The trio in the Hubble image is so unusual it's part of Arp's 1966 Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies, a list of galaxies that are out of the norm. "Appreciation of these peculiarities is important in order to build a realistic picture of what galaxies are really like," says the preface to the Atlas.

The Arp 195 image was a bonus observation Hubble squeezed into its busy schedule. "Extra observations such as these do more than provide spectacular images, they also help to identify promising targets to follow up with using telescopes such as the upcoming NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope," ESA said.

The next-generation James Webb telescope has been through many delays, but is scheduled to launch later this year. Hubble experienced trouble recently when a dramatic technical glitch put it out of service for a month until a successful switch to backup hardware brought it back online.

The good news is Hubble is healthy and continues to collect stunning views of our universe. Perhaps James Webb will one day turn its eyes on Arp 195 and give us an even better look at the galactic skirmish.

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