NASA and the European Space Agency’s Hubble has been aiding scientists in examining distant constellations for many years now. And just recently, the space agency decided to revisit one stunning image that was captured by the space telescope and was first released to the public four years ago. 

This image shared by NASA on its website last Friday shows the NGC 6052, which scientists described as a pair of galaxies that are in the process of merging due to gravity. The colliding star systems are located about 230 million light-years away in the constellation of Hercules. 

While the state of the two galaxies seems pretty chaotic, it’s actually very rare for their stars to crash into each other. According to NASA, collision between stars is quite rare because there are big gaps between stars as most of the two galaxies is just empty space. 

The completion of the galaxies’ collision will mark the birth of a single, stable galaxy. Therefore, what the Hubble telescope has captured is the formation of a new galaxy from two galaxies that are being brought together by a gravitational pull since a long time ago. 

Amid this ongoing merging process, the stars in the two galaxies are thrown out of their original orbits and are then placed onto new position, with some landing on paths very distant from the point of the collision. As a result, the galaxy that will form won’t resemble any of the two original galaxies in terms of shape. 

NGC 6052 was actually first discovered by William Herschel in 1784. The Hubble Space Telescope previously observed it with its old Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. The image that was released in 2015 and revisited by the space agency last week was taken using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. 

Colliding galaxies are not unusual in the universe. In fact, our very own Milky Way galaxy is also expected to undergo a similar process in the future with its neighboring star system, the Andromeda galaxy. And as previously stated, the collision of the two will give birth to a new galaxy. 

As of late, the Milky Way and its large spiraled neighbor is estimated to be 2.5 million light-years apart. The gravity that’s pulling them together is causing them to approach each other at 402,000 kilometers per hour. Even though this speed may seem alarming, National Geographic has learned from scientists that the collision won’t happen until 4 billion years later.