A spectacular bridge of
and gas stretches
for nearly 250,000 light-years and joins this famous
pair of galaxies cataloged
as Arp 295.
The cosmic bridge between the
galaxies and the long tail extending
below and right of picture center are strong evidence
that these two immense star systems have
passed close to each other
in the past, allowing violent tides induced by mutual gravity
to create the
eye-catching plumes of stellar material.
While such interactions are drawn out over
billions of years, repeated
passages should ultimately result in
the merger of this pair of galaxies into a larger single
galaxy of stars.
scenario does look peculiar, galactic mergers are thought
to be common, with Arp 295 representing an early stage of
this inevitable process.
The Arp 295 pair are the largest of a loose grouping of
galaxies about 270 million
light-years distant toward the constellation Aquarius.
This deep color image
of the region was recorded in September 2003 using the USNO
telescope near Flagstaff, Arizona.