Let's talk about the birds, the bees and the galaxies. Sometimes two galaxies are very much attracted together by gravity. Those two galaxies can collide, squish together and form a single, new galaxy. This fascinating process in on display in a Hubble image showing galaxy NGC 6052.
NGC 6052 is an odd jumble of stars. NASA describes it as having "a highly chaotic shape." The merging process tosses some stars out of their usual orbits, sending them off in new directions on a perpetual space detour.
The galactic mess of NGC 6052 won't last forever. "Eventually, this new galaxy will settle down into a stable shape, which may not resemble either of the two original galaxies," NASA notes.
NGC 6052 does not seem to have earned a popular name yet, but something like "Twins Galaxy" or the "Schwarzenegger/DeVito Galaxy" might be appropriate.
The image was taken using Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, which NASA refers to as the telescope's "workhorse camera for many years." The space agency released the image last week.
The merging galaxy seen in the Hubble image has been on astronomers' minds for quite some time. A study published in 1969 refers to it in the title as "The Peculiar Galaxy NGC 6052." The article cites its unusual structure and irregular shape. NASA notes that the galaxy was originally classified as a single abnormal galaxy, but further study has revealed its dual nature.
Hubble is a joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency. The space telescope launched into orbit in 1990 and has returned some spectacular space images in its time, including the famous "Pillars of Creation," a dramatic image of the M16 nebula (popularly called the Eagle Nebula).