Hubble eyes two stunning galaxies before future James Webb Space Telescope observations

Arp 298 features two interacting galaxies, as shown in this Hubble Space Telescope image.
Arp 298 features two interacting galaxies, as shown in this Hubble Space Telescope image. (Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Evans, R. Chandar)

The Hubble Space Telescope continues to scout on behalf of the newly launched James Webb Space Telescope to guide future astronomy work.

A stunning new image released by Hubble officials shows a single example of that collaboration: a pair of galaxies known as Arp 298, interacting 200 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Pegasus.

More prominent in the image is the barred spiral galaxy NGC 7469, which is known to have a supermassive black hole in its center. (This galaxy has the same shape as the Milky Way and may be useful for comparative studies of barred spirals.) Also visible is the smaller, but still spectacular, IC 5283 galaxy. 

Related: The best Hubble Space Telescope images of all time!

"The 'Arp' in this galaxy pair’s name signifies that they are listed in the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies compiled by the astronomer Halton Arp," Hubble officials wrote in a statement. "The Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies is a rogues' gallery of weird and wonderful galaxies containing peculiar structures, featuring galaxies exhibiting everything from segmented spiral arms to concentric rings."

Before long, scientists will be able to compare Hubble's work with that of Webb's, as Arp 298 will be one of the first science targets of Webb's observations starting in summer 2022, Hubble officials said. Webb is now aligning its mirrors as part of a months-long commissioning period, following its launch Dec. 25.

But if you want another view before summer, Hubble has you covered. The telescope also imaged the same approximate area back in 2008, focusing that time on using infrared to highlight a starburst.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: