Out in the far reaches of the universe, a beautiful, seemingly tranquil scene illuminates the cosmos. But this amazing view of two gas-rich spiral galaxies is, in reality, a violent collision happening in slow motion.
The galaxy crash is known as IRAS 14348-1447 after the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) that discovered it and is seen here as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. Located more than a billion light-years from Earth, IRAS 14348-1447 is known as an ultraluminous infrared galaxy, a category of cosmic entities that shine distinctively —and unbelievably brightly — in the infrared spectrum, according to a NASA image description. [In Photos: When Galaxies Collide]
This celestial object emits close to 95 percent of its energy in the far-infrared. IRAS 14348-1447 is gas-rich, which means the massive amounts of molecular gas it contains fuels its emission, NASA officials wrote in the image description. The gases undergo many dynamical changes as they connect and travel around each other. This also contributes to the unearthly appearance.
Hubble's Advance Camera for Surveys (ACS) captured the scene. The Hubble Space Telescope has been observing the universe since 1990 and is a joint project by NASA and the European Space Agency.