Hubble Watches Triple Galaxy Smash Up

Article written: 3 Mar , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

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Is this an image of two galaxies? Actually, its three interacting galaxies that are locked in a gravitational tug-of-war. The give and take going on here may eventually tear at least one galaxy apart, and someday the three will likely merge into one super-large galaxy. This new image from the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys allows astronomers to view the movement of gases from galaxy to galaxy, and already, strong tidal interaction surging through the galaxies has dragged a significant number of stars away from their original homes.

The three galaxies are about 100 million light-years away, in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish). The three pictured galaxies — NGC 7173 (middle left), NCG 7174 (middle right) and NGC 7176 (lower right) — are part of the Hickson Compact Group 90, named after astronomer Paul Hickson, who first catalogued these small clusters of galaxies in the 1980s.

NGC 7173 and NGC 7176 appear to be smooth, normal elliptical galaxies without much gas and dust. In stark contrast, NGC 7174 is a mangled spiral galaxy, barely clinging to independent existence as it is ripped apart by its close neighbors. Stars are being moved away from their original locations, and are now spread out, forming a tenuous luminous component in the galaxy group.

Ultimately, astronomers believe that the stars in NGC 7174 will be redistributed into a giant ‘island universe’, tens to hundreds of times as massive as our own Milky Way.

Source: Space Telescope Institute


54 Responses

  1. CJB says

    Believing the “Big Bang” occurred at a single point and all matter radiated from that single point, how is it possible for these 3 galaxies to intersect? Their separate intersecting paths would indicate each galaxy tracked along different paths of their own origin. This seems inconsistent with the theory that the “Big Bang” is the single point of origination for all things in our universe.

  2. huygens says

    What if galaxies are actually alive? Could we be watching these galaxies trying to eat each other, or perhaps reproduce?

    Just because we are not used to life forms on such massive scales doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Let’s face it, we still think digital watches are really neat things, so something like mating galaxies are way out of our mental leagues.

  3. ND says

    I’ve heard the term ‘galactic cannibalism’ used before.

  4. Yoduh says

    @huygens
    As in stars being analogous to living cells. Each with it’s own life force, contributing to the whole. And the whole being greater than the sum of it’s parts.

    That my young padawan, is your first step in the understanding of the Force.

    We are merely manifestations for the universe trying to understand itself.

    Live long and prosper.

  5. Yoduh says

    @cjb
    That is 1 of the greatest mysteries of the BB theory. What caused the turbulence that gave us the lumpy universe? If not for that we instead would have a uniform soup for a cosmos from which nothing could form.

    So if solve that riddle you can, great your fame will be.

  6. huygens says

    If the stars are the cells of the galaxies, then what are we?

    If we are a galaxy’s brain, then those poor, poor galaxies.

    What gave us a lumpy universe? The equivalent of a grain of sand in an oyster that makes a pearl, I would imagine.

    Perhaps the idea of colliding branes rather than a Big Bang is the more accurate model of the universe’s formation.

  7. ND says

    As in g-r-a-v-i-t-y? …… what’s that?

  8. ND,

    “As in g-r-a-v-i-t-y? …… what’s that?”

    Gravitation is an occult creationist force that relies upon divine intervention and miracles.

    “…to establish it [gravitation] as original or primitive in certain parts of matter is to resort either to miracle or an imaginary occult quality.” — Gottfreid W. Leibniz, polymath, July 1710

    “…lest the systems of the fixed stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other, he [God] hath placed those systems at immense distances from one another.” — Isaac Newton, mathematician, 1687

  9. CJB and Yoduh,

    The biggest mystery of the Big Bang is why people continue to believe in it despite all of the disconfirming evidence, e.g. colliding galaxies and dischordant redshift associations. The 17th century Catholic Church was more open minded to scientific observation than the fundamentalist Big Bangers of today.

  10. Olaf says

    “What caused the turbulence that gave us the lumpy universe”

    It is called quantum fluctuations when the cosmos was the size smaller than an atom, now enlagerd to a few billions of lightyears.

    So the universe is a bit of a Swiss cheese because of that and the gravity does the rest because matter is not evenly distributed because of this initial randomness.

  11. Yael Dragwyla says

    Notice that OillsMastery still hasn’t jumped off a sheer, 1,000-foot tall cliff to demonstrate that there is no such thing as gravity. – That said (yes, I know, don’t feed the trolls, but sometimes you just gotta say something), it’s a shame that that poor spiral galaxy is being torn to bits by its elliptical neighbors. Soon (in cosmic terms) nothing will be left but one huge elliptical that is mostly gas and relatively very few stars. {sigh}

  12. Salacious B. Crumb says

    OilIsMastery said:
    “Gravitation is an occult creationist force that relies upon divine intervention and miracles.”

    OK smart guy. You see the images of these same galaxies too… What is going on do you think?
    How far away are they?
    How big are they?
    How do you measure there masses?
    Are they really galaxies, or another form of astronomical phenomena?
    Do the laws of physics apply is these galaxies as they do on Earth and our nearby space?
    Are all astronomical objects just an illusion created by some intelligence or god just to confuse us?
    Or is Oillsmastery’s himself an illusionary phantom sent by Satan to lead us all away from salvation?
    If you can’t answer these question, I suggest you should please leave the voodoo to others who at least has some semblance of common sense and have their feet planted on the ground.

    Note: Careful please. Some people here cannot tell if you joking or not.
    Most of us do, however, get the oldest joke in the Universe!
    I.e. Gravity’s a myth, the Earth sucks!
    Ha Ha. We get it!

  13. Salacious B. Crumb says

    huygens said
    What if galaxies are actually alive? Could we be watching these galaxies trying to eat each other, or perhaps reproduce?

    Well, there is an awful lot of life forms on this scale then! Perhaps they are pest like cockroaches or rats. If god were a pest controller, he’d have to us an awful lot of insecticide or bates to get rid of these monsters, eh?
    Perhaps things like life on Earth is merely bacterium in the stomach of the cosmic behemoths?

  14. Salacious,

    Those are great questions. You should spend more time asking questions like those instead of trying to regurgitate 17th century creationism, Victorianism, and pre-Space Age mathematics.

    “If you can’t answer these question, I suggest you should please leave the voodoo to others”

    Trust me: I do. Speculation based upon voodoo has never been my strong point.

    “…their theory is incorrect but they don’t have an accepted theory to replace it and that I think is very psychologically bothersome to particularly scientists who have gone into science in order to be certain about the world, to be sure that they’re right and so forth, and it’s a very insecure position. Some scientists have joked that well a scientist would rather be wrong than uncertain. We sort of have to live with uncertainty which is, well, it’s an interesting and challenging situation.” — Halton C. Arp, astronomer, 1998

    “Some people here cannot tell if you joking or not.”

    Does gravitation seem like a joke to you too?

  15. Salacious B. Crumb says

    OilIsMastery Says:
    ” “If you can’t answer these question, I suggest you should please leave the voodoo to others”
    Trust me: I do. Speculation based upon voodoo has never been my strong point.” ”
    So how important in reality in the world or universe? According to you, so nothing is provable, so even you are apparently an illusion or delusion?
    Oh dear. Poof!! … and now OilIsMastery gone. How ’bout that!.

    Note: “Rhetorical” by the way is always spelt with an “R”

  16. marcellus says

    Ollis Mastery was once a little boy that liked to step on ants and poke sticks into their hills.

  17. Dave Finton says

    I often wonder how many posts on these types of articles all come from the same IP address? Every time I get interestd in reading UniverseToday posts comments sections, it seems like 2 weeks later they get hijacked by a bunch of… well, I vowed to myself not to call people names online anymore. I think I will keep my promise for now.

    @OillsMastery: I just dropped my TV remote. It reliably fell to the ground. Trust me, it was no joke. I had to put the darm battery casing back on manually. Almost broke the thing. *I am not happy with gravity*

  18. Dave Finton says

    And… spell check failed me once again! (or did I fail spell check?)

  19. Dave Finton,

    You should look up the difference between gravity and gravitation.

    Nice straw man argument.

  20. And if you believe in universal gravitation, why aren’t you afraid the moon and Earth are going to fall on eachother by their gravitation?

    Why aren’t you afraid the Earth and sun are is going to fall on eachother?

    Why aren’t you afraid the Sun is going to fall on Sagittarius A*?

    If you believe in miracles, the occult, alchemy, and witchcraft like Newton did, then I’ll understand where you’re coming from.

  21. Anaconda says

    Olaf: “It is called quantum fluctuations when the cosmos was the size smaller than an atom, now enlagerd to a few billions of lightyears.”

    “the cosmos was the size smaller than an atom”

    Does anybody seriously believe the whole Universe was smaller than an atom?

    And many of you who believe in the above statement strenuously object to Plasma Universe theory — even though many of it postulates have been confirmed in the plasma physics laboratory and confirmed in space by NASA.

    Look in the mirror and think to yourself, “I’m strongly opposed to Plasma Universe theory, but I subscribe to a ‘big bang’ that requires me to believe that the Universe fitted into a size smaller than an atom.”

    Do “big bangers” have any room to object to Plasma Universe theory considering their own crazy beliefs?

  22. Anaconda says

    @ Olaf

    You are entilted to your own opinion — that the Universe started off smaller than an atom… But you are not entitled to make up your own facts.

    Olaf: “NASA has shown that the solar wind is electrical NEUTRAL!”

    False, NASA has confirmed the existence of Birkeland (electric) currents between the Sun and the Earth. The Birkeland currents are NOT neutral. The are charged and deliver many millions of amperes of electricity to the Earth from the Sun EVERY day.

    Olaf: ” the recent detected hole in the magnetosfere that was not expected proves that magnetic recombination has taken place while the EU theorie does not accept magnetic recombination at all!”

    False, that proves nothing of the kind.

    Electrical engineers are the most experienced with electric currents and their attendant magnetic fields, but in the laboratory and in the field; also, plasma physicists are experienced with electric current and their attendant manetic fields by work in the laboratory and in the field: Both disciplines state unequivocally that magnetic reconnection doesn’t happen — that to suggest it does happen is to reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of electromagnetism.

    Astronomy and astronomers are not the ones to be relied on for their understanding of electromagnetism. After all, astronomers spent 70 years in denial about the existence of Birkeland (electric) currents between the Sun and the Earth.

    Astronomy was proved absolutely wrong.

    And it appears you, Olaf, are still in bitter DENIAL.

  23. joe says

    I’m curious what people thing about what happens to planets of stars that are being pulled away from theri previously normally stable galactic configuration.
    Do planets have theri orbits altered to a greater degree than their stars becasue of their smaller mass?
    Would the leading edge of the star, gas filled, dust filled tendril we see in the photos be flush with planets ripped from their stars?

  24. joe says

    Like a vacuum cleaner sucking grains of sand before pebbles or rocks.

  25. Aodhhan says

    Oills…
    True, if you believe in Universal Gravitation the Earth will fall into the Sun. This is one of the problems which Newton couldn’t figure out in his computations. However, Einstein’s theory of Relativity took care of Newton’s Universal Gravitation problems, as well as Newton’s questions on his own work.

    So, if you are so stuck in 1700’s astronomy, then you are going to be incorrect about many things.
    Don’t confuse Newtons law of gravity with Coulomb’s law of electrical forces. They may look the same to the novice who doesn’t understand inverse-square mathematics, but read and understand Einstein’s general relativity and you’ll eventually figure it out.

    Newtonian Gravity can’t explain many of the things you seem to have a problem with, but you should also then be aware in this day and age, Newton was incorrect in most of his computations for large objects. For small objects, his math is fine (not perfect, but accurate enough), however for large things (like planets, galaxies etc) it isn’t. Definitely cannot be used to explain orbital dynamics. Even Newton knew this.

    That doesn’t mean read the 15 minute book of General Relativity… learn enough to understand where your 18th Century logic is flawed.

  26. huygens says

    Yael D. said –

    “…it’s a shame that that poor spiral galaxy is being torn to bits by its elliptical neighbors. Soon (in cosmic terms) nothing will be left but one huge elliptical that is mostly gas and relatively very few stars. {sigh}”

    According to the guys who study this stuff, some day all galaxies will either drift away and die out as their suns fade into black dwarfs or black holes, or they will all combine into megagiant elliptical galaxies like Messier 87.

    This assumes there will be no “interference” from advanced ETI who want to reshape their galaxies into something useful.

  27. fred houpt says

    You know, seen from Halton Arp’s perspective my eyes see something else. I could be dead wrong and maybe the data will show me wrong, but the two big galaxies on either side look like they had been EJECTED out of third galaxy a long time ago…..and that the 3 galaxies are not going to merge but are pulling apart….

  28. ND says

    Oils,

    Please take a look at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton%27s_cannonball

    This should give you a visual idea of why things like sattelites and the Moon stay in orbit around the Earth.

    Also, if you google for “newton’s cannon” you’ll find several applets that let you simulate newton’s canonball. You can plug in values and see what happens to the cannonball.

  29. Olaf says

    – even though many of it postulates have been confirmed in the plasma physics laboratory and confirmed in space by NASA. –

    FAULT! NASA, and plasma physics does not prove the EU at all! Just the contrary that the EU theorie is at fault!

    One example: NASA has shown that the solar wind is electrical NEUTRAL! While the EU expects some current that is not neutral.

    Other example the recent detected hole in the magnetosfere that was not expected proves that magnetic recombination has taken place while the EU theorie does not accept magnetic recombination at all!

    Also NASA has proven again and again the electrons are moving in space WITHOUT NEED of any plasma at all!
    NASA proves again and again, the EU is false but you hear the buzzword plasma and automatically thinks that it has something to do with the EU while it is something completely different!

    Also if you calcullate the amount of ellectrictiy you would need to have the same potential energy as gravity is having on a mass, then the electrcity cannot create such a huge force like gravity without beeing zapped and fried by the electricity.

    Your EU theory is like what they call in Star Trek technobabel, a lot of buzwords that sounds logical but actually has no base in reality.

  30. Aodhhan,

    “True, if you believe in Universal Gravitation the Earth will fall into the Sun.”

    I agree. Therefore gravitation is absurd.

    “This is one of the problems which Newton couldn’t figure out in his computations.”

    One of the many.

    “However, Einstein’s theory of Relativity took care of Newton’s Universal Gravitation problems, as well as Newton’s questions on his own work.”

    All it did is build a new insane theory on top of an old insane theory. You can’t build a lasting monument with a foundation of raw sewage.

    “So, if you are so stuck in 1700’s astronomy, then you are going to be incorrect about many things.”

    Indeed. That’s what puzzles me about Einstein’s popularity.

    “Don’t confuse Newtons law of gravity with Coulomb’s law of electrical forces.”

    What makes you think I do?

    “They may look the same to the novice who doesn’t understand inverse-square mathematics, but read and understand Einstein’s general relativity and you’ll eventually figure it out. ”

    The inverse square so-called “laws” are utterly absurd.

    “Newtonian Gravity can’t explain many of the things you seem to have a problem with, but you should also then be aware in this day and age, Newton was incorrect in most of his computations for large objects.”

    I agree.

    “For small objects, his math is fine (not perfect, but accurate enough), however for large things (like planets, galaxies etc) it isn’t.”

    Wrong and completely ridiculous. The chemical elements and compounds in the atmosphere being a mixture should sort themselves by their specific gravities and atomic weights and fall to the Earth accordingly however in actual physical reality they don’t. Argon and carbon dioxide though heavier than nitrogen and oxygen are found in equal percentages at all altitudes. Similary oxygen though lighter than argon and carbon dioxide is found at the surface of the Earth. And ozone which is heavier than oxygen is only found at the highest levels of the atmosphere thus defying gravity. Clouds also defy gravity.

    “That doesn’t mean read the 15 minute book of General Relativity… learn enough to understand where your 18th Century logic is flawed.”

    General Relativity is laughable…learn enough to understand where your pre-Space Age 20th century illogic is flawed. Curved time is the craziest explanation of phenomenon available. If time is curved then what color is it? Yellow?

  31. ND,

    Cannonballs fall towards the Earth, the moon falls away from the Earth. They are not analogous.

  32. ND says

    Oils,

    I think you need to reread the canonball thought experiment again. Specially the part where the canonball ends up in orbit around the earth.

  33. Aodhhan says

    I don’t say this about many people, but Oills.. you’re a crack-head who doesn’t think things through.
    Trying to explain it to you is the true definition of rediculous.

    Gas is constantly rising and falling, turning and churning in our atmosphere. Nothing could settle via specific gravity (a term used more with liquids, not gasses) in this environment.

    If you cannot figure this out, there is no way you will understand anything as complex as general relativity or anything else for that matter.

    You say cannon balls fall to Earth, yet if I can throw your same cannon ball, parallel to the ground so it maintains a speed of 18,500 mph, it will orbit the Earth just like any satellite. This was part of Newton’s Universal Gravitation… and you don’t get it?

    If the moon wasn’t orbiting the Earth; it was just sitting there in space, then it would fall to Earth since it couldn’t maintain the force necessary to keep it from falling into the dent the Earth puts into the fabric of space/time.

    Now, I am truly rediculous to think you will understand simple physics 101; so you can bet I won’t make this mistake again. You can’t have a battle of intellect with someone who comes to the fight unarmed.

  34. Aodhhan,

    “Gas is constantly rising and falling, turning and churning in our atmosphere.

    So gas defies gravity?

    “Nothing could settle via specific gravity.”

    So you don’t believe in gravity?

    “You say cannon balls fall to Earth”

    You deny it?

    “yet if I can throw your same cannon ball, parallel to the ground so it maintains a speed of 18,500 mph, it will orbit the Earth just like any satellite.”

    No. You can’t. That’s impossible. According to General Relativity there is no such thing as parallel lines. And if you can throw a cannonball that fast I suggest you change professions. And if it maintained that speed it would fly into outer space and not orbit the Earth. Duh.

  35. ND says

    Oils,

    At that speed it’s not going to go off into outer space, it will be in orbit around the earth because of earth’s gravity. In this example there are two things acting on the canonball, earth’s gravity (towards the center of the earth from the perpective of the canonball), and it’s velocity (18.5K mph), horizontal to the earth. Both of these contribute to keeping the canonball in or bit around the earth.

    Again, think of throwing a rock. The faster you throw it parallel to the ground, the farther it will fall from you. This is *consistent* with Newton’s gravity. Yes, Newton’s ideas are not completely correct, but they are an excellent approximation for everyday rock throwing and putting satellites in orbit.

    Question: you do understand that gravity falls with distance from an object, right?

  36. Ravenas says

    ‘”Gas is constantly rising and falling, turning and churning in our atmosphere.”

    ‘So gas defies gravity?”

    OiM is walking on the ground, therefore he defies gravity. Oh noes! Gravity does not exist!!!

    LOL. Get a grip OiM. How OiM manages to *defy gravity*? Because he has eaten well and has plenty of energy in his muscles to counteract the effects of gravity and put his overload of energy into motion.

    Where does the hot water go when it is boiled? Up. Why? Because the energy spent to boil the water moves the molecules and counteracts the effects of gravity and puts steams of water into motion.

    NOTE: Counteracts does not mean “Nullifies gravity” or destroys gravity or any kind of the short.

  37. Keith A says

    Oily:

    > …the moon falls away from the Earth.

    Wee! You really ARE a genius. In reverse.

    As anyone who took even ONE college (“non-football”) physics course knows, the EXACT OPPOSITE is true. The Moon is CONSTANTLY falling “toward” the Earth. It’s forward momentum perfectly matches its fall rate – resulting in something called ‘orbit’. While it’s not the definition you’ll find in a dictionary (or even a physics text), it IS as legitimate a definition as the one in Webster’s.

    If the moon’s momentum were 1% (.1%; .01%…) higher than it is, it wouldn’t be in the Earth orbit. Were it 1% slower, we wouldn’t be here on the surface of this planet – because the Moon WOULD BE!

  38. Ravenas says

    Keith,

    LOL, no wait. Teh moon is built by Alienz to serve as a stationary base for probe labs. It is also specifically engineered to defy laws of gravity to “fall away from the Earth”. It is also known to be used by the same aliens to cook yellow spacetime marshmallows. Moreover, it is known that teh AlienZ used specific Plasma Universe torch to cook those marshmallows. I wonder what to them?

  39. ND,

    “you do understand that gravity falls with distance from an object, right?”

    At what distance from an object does gravitation start to become violated?

  40. Ravenas,

    You might want to look up the difference between gravity and gravitation.

  41. Keith A,

    You are lying when you say the moon is falling to the Earth at 9.8 meters/second because if it were the impact would be catastrophic.

    In actuality the moon is falling away from the Earth at the rate of 3.8 cm/year.

  42. Keith A says

    Oily:

    *Lying*? How old are you, 14? Call me all the names you have to to protect your fragile ego. It’s certainly easier that STUDYING and LEARNING.

    You obviously know even less about orbital mechanics than I do about you. How sad.

  43. Ravenas says

    OiM,

    So do you.


    “gravity” refers to the force that is supposed in some theories (such as Newton’s) to be the cause of this attraction. Gravity is one of the fundamental forces of physics responsible for keeping the Earth and the other planets in their orbits around the Sun; for keeping the Moon in its orbit around the Earth, for the formation of tides; for convection (by which hot fluids rise); for heating the interiors of forming stars and planets to very high temperatures; and for various other phenomena that we observe. By contrast, in general relativity gravitation is due to spacetime curvatures which cause inertially moving objects to accelerate towards each other.”

    Conclusion: OiM is still defying gravity!!

  44. Keith A says

    Ravenas:

    +1 !!! 🙂

  45. Aodhhan says

    Oills…
    You definitely win the Onion Award, as the most ignorant person on this site.

    Thank goodness we can ignore you.

  46. ND says

    Oils,

    “At what distance from an object does gravitation start to become violated?”

    Violated? What does that mean?

  47. Paul Eaton-Jones says

    Surely the police should be called if something is being violated.

  48. Ravenas,

    I think I figured out your observational and theoretical difficulties by clicking on your name. Stay off the mushrooms. It’s the Hubble Space Telescope NOT the Hubble Space Kaleidoscope.

  49. Anonymous says

    Ravenas.
    Where Oilismastery is soon going, even the Hubble Space Telescope won’t find him !!!
    Remember Oilis….
    You can run, but you soon find you can’t hide anywhere anymore.
    [ Below might be a new avatar for you to consider ;
    LISWAG – Lost in Space With Any Gravity ]

  50. Ravenas says

    OiM,

    I sincerely hoped you would understand that but I guess I was too naive to expect that from You. The link on my name was dedicated to your yellow spacetime marshmallows. I am sorry it was not so obvious for u to understand such a basic hint.

  51. Paul Eaton-Jones says

    Has anyone considered that Oils might have stuck his fingers in a mains socket when he was a baby? It might explain his mania for all things electrical.

  52. McRude says

    “”already, strong tidal interaction surging through the galaxies has dragged a significant number of stars away from their original homes.””

    What in that photo tells us that stars are not where they used to be??

    Frazier????
    Anyone??

  53. Excalibur says

    Computer simluations of galactic encounters commonly shows tidal arms stretching out, this is so far the only known situations where such arms can be repeatedly created by a process. Ofc it could be possible that it is a random creation, but that seems incredible.

    The sign of the extended tidal arms in the photo indicate the action, especially the upper arm.

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