This beautiful space wallpaper portrays the galaxies NGC 799 (below) and NGC 800 (above) located in the constellation of Cetus (The Whale). Located at a distance of about 300 million light-years, these objects are both spiral galaxies, with characteristic long arms winding towards a bright bulge at the center. While it might seem that this image depicts two impressive close spiral galaxies coexisting in an everlasting peace, nothing can be further than the truth. We could be just witnessing the calm before the storm. We don’t know exactly what the future will bring, but typically, when two galaxies are close enough, they interact over hundreds of millions of years by means of gravitational disturbances. In some cases, only minor interactions occur, causing shape distortions, but sometimes galaxies collide, merging to form a single, new and larger galaxy. This image was released Aug. 12, 2013.
(Image: © ESO)