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Hubble telescope spots a pair of 'squabbling' galaxies locked in cosmic dance

This photo from the Hubble Space Telescope shows two galaxies, NGC 7752 and NGC 7753, interacting as a single object called Arp 86 220 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Pegasus.
This photo from the Hubble Space Telescope shows two galaxies, NGC 7752 and NGC 7753, interacting as a single object called Arp 86 220 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Pegasus. (Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Dark Energy Survey, J. Dalcanton)

The Hubble Space Telescope caught a pair of "squabbling" galaxies in action, according to the European Space Agency.

The pair of objects is known as Arp 86 and includes two galaxies roughly 220 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Pegasus. They are known individually as NGC 7753 and the much smaller companion NGC 7752.

"The diminutive companion galaxy almost appears attached to NGC 7753, and it is this peculiarity that has earned the designation 'Arp 86' – signifying that the galaxy pair appears in the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies compiled by the astronomer Halton Arp in 1966," ESA officials wrote in a statement about the new research. 

"The gravitational dance between the two galaxies will eventually result in NGC 7752 being tossed out into intergalactic space or entirely engulfed by its much larger neighbor," the added.

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

This view shows the full view of the interacting galaxies of Arp 86 as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. (Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Dark Energy Survey, J. Dalcanton)

The Hubble Space Telescope observations were meant to shed light on how cold gas in the area contributes to the formation of young stars observed in the image. The observatory examined star clusters, gas clouds and dust clouds in several environments in the neighborhood, including other galaxies outside of Arp 86, ESA stated.

The space telescope's work was combined with measurements from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a set of telescopes in the Chilean Andes optimized to peer through galactic dust in young systems. Between ALMA and Hubble, the research team is seeking more information about how stars are formed.

The research will also assist with future work by the James Webb Space Telescope, which is set to launch late in 2021 to explore the origins of the universe. One of Webb's research projects will be to look at dusty galaxies (such as Arp 86) to learn more about star evolution, ESA stated.

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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for Space.com who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.