SPACE PICTURES THIS WEEK: Rings Gored, Blue "Eye," More

SPACE PICTURES THIS WEEK: Rings Gored, Blue
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March 3, 2009--In an image released Tuesday, the Hubble Space Telescope has spied a trio of galaxies undergoing a cosmic power struggle that could result in a massive intergalactic merger.

Collectively known as the Hickson Compact Group 90, the interacting galaxies are a hundred million light-years away in the constellation Piscis Austrinus. Two of the galaxies are smooth ellipses, but the one in between is a mangled spiral galaxy that's being ripped apart and likely absorbed by its neighbors.

Gravitational forces from this hostile takeover have dragged large groups of stars outside their home galaxies, creating a tenuous band that astronomers believe will ultimately become a separate megastructure tens to hundreds of times as massive as the Milky Way.

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—Image courtesy NASA; ESA and R. Sharples (University of Durham; U.K.)
 
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