The two galaxies, NGC 5394 and 5395, are an example of how interactions on the galactic scale take place over millions of years. This image released by the Gemini Observatory shows the two galaxies in a slow and intimate dance, as they have already “collided” at least once, though their shape has only been deformed by the gravitational pull.
This interaction creates a beautiful phenomenon of hydrogen coalescing into regions of star formation, visible as reddish clumps scattered around the larger galaxy. These stellar nurseries are a reminder of the complexity and beauty of the universe and its interactions.
The galaxies were first observed by William Herschel in 1787, in the same year he discovered two moons of Uranus. To this day, when people look upon them they imagine a Heron – with its beak preying upon a fish.
The dance of these two galaxies is an example of how our universe is dependent upon interactions, from the tiniest subatomic particles to the largest clusters of galaxies. This can be seen in everything from the formation of stars to the formation of galaxies and beyond.
The collision of two galaxies is just one example of how gravity can spark collisions through space that can take millions of years to play out. It is an incredible reminder that we are not alone in this universe and that things happen over time that we cannot even imagine – all through interactions between celestial objects.
It is also worth noting that there are plenty of examples of galactic collisions that don’t lead to any visible effects or structures for us to observe. This is because the distances between stars within each galaxy can be so far apart that they don’t actually collide with each other.