''Toothbrush,'' ''Firefly'' Among Galactic Smashups

''Toothbrush,'' ''Firefly'' Among Galactic Smashups
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April 24, 2008Harry Potter's owl Hedwig has nothing on the knowing gaze of this cosmic "creature."

The above collision of two spiral galaxies, known as Arp 272, is part of a collection of 59 images released today in honor of the Hubble Space Telescope's 18th birthday. The new atlas of galaxy mergers is the largest set of Hubble images yet released to the public, according to NASA.

Despite their reputation as static structures, galaxies often collide and morph into peculiar new shapes. The new atlas could be an interstellar Rorschach test, with smashups resembling everything from sea life to dental tools.

The owl-like form of Arp 272 is part of the "Great Wall" of galaxy clusters in the constellation Hercules, 450 million light-years away.

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—Image by NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University), K. Noll (STScI), and J. Westphal (Caltech)
 
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