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Hubble’s Latest Hit: Galaxy Gets Caught in Gravitational Tangle

Image: NGC 7714
NGC 7714 is a spiral galaxy 100 million light-years from Earth that is in the process of being pulled apart due to gravitational interaction with a companion galaxy known as NGC 7715. This view was produced using data captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2011. A. Gai-Yam / Weizmann Inst. of Science / ESA / NASA

The spiral galaxy known as NGC 7714 is turning itself into a glorious gravitational mess in a picture from the Hubble Space Telescope. The view was captured by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys in October 2011, and released to the public on Thursday.

NGC 7714 is about 100 million light-years from Earth, in the constellation Pisces. It's being pulled apart like a stretchy piece of taffy, thanks to gravitational interaction with a neighboring galaxy called NGC 7715.

A golden loop of sunlike stars is swinging out from the galaxy's center. You can also make out a faint bridge of hot, bluish stars stretching off to the left toward NGC 7715, which is just outside the Hubble picture's field of view. The close encounter has compressed interstellar gas to trigger still more bursts of star formation, seen as bright blue arcs extending around NGC 7714's center.

For more about the galactic mess, check out Thursday's news releases from the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Hubble European Space Agency Information Center.

Image: Galaxies
This image from the Digitized Sky Survey shows the galaxies NGC 7714 and NGC 7715 at upper right. NGC 7715 is just outside the frame in the newly released Hubble image. Taken together, the pair of interacting galaxies is known as Arp 284. NASA / ESA / DSS2

IN-DEPTH

— Alan Boyle