What's happening to this spiral galaxy?
Just a few hundred million years ago,
NGC 2936, the upper of the two large
galaxies shown, was likely a
normal spiral galaxy --
spinning, creating stars -- and minding its own business.
But then it got too close to the
massive elliptical galaxy
NGC 2937 below and took a dive.
Porpoise Galaxy for its iconic shape, NGC 2936 is not only being deflected but also being distorted by the
close gravitational interaction.
A burst of young blue stars forms the nose of the porpoise toward the left of the upper galaxy, while the center of the spiral appears as an eye.
Alternatively, the galaxy pair, together known as
Arp 142, look to some like a
penguin protecting an egg.
Either way, intricate dark dust lanes and bright blue star streams trail the troubled galaxy to the lower right.
The above recently-released image showing
Arp 142 in unprecedented detail was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope last year.
Arp 142 lies about 300 million light years away toward the constellation, coincidently, of the Water Snake
In a billion years or so the two galaxies will likely merge into one larger galaxy.
and The Hubble Heritage Team