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Astronomy Now Apparent galactic train wreck actually widely separated galaxies in chance alignment

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Astronomy Now

This Hubble Space Telescope image, and one from the European Southern Observatory, provide two views of a pair of galaxies that appear to be smashing into each other in a cosmic collision. But don’t be fooled. The face-on spiral galaxy is actually about 117 million light years from Earth while other is some 140 million light years away. They appear to be colliding thanks to a chance alignment when viewed from Earth. In the wider-angle ESO view below Hubble’s stunning close up, a dim, yellowish smudge can be seen toward the lower right, an ultra-diffuse galaxy and one of the faintest in the Hydra I galaxy cluster. UDG are extremely faint and lack the star forming gas of galaxy’s like the Milky way.

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Two galaxies that appear to be colliding are actually separated by millions of light years. NASA says the odds of such a precise alignment along line of sight from Earth are about 1-in-100,000. Image (top): NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and W. Keel (University of Alabama); bottom image with ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope: ESO/Iodice et al.

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