|This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image shows three galaxies playing a game of gravitational tug-of-war that may result in the eventual demise of one of them.
Located about 100 million light-years away in the constellation Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish), the galaxy interaction may ultimately lead to the three reforming into two larger star cities.
The three galaxies—NGC 7173 (middle left), NGC 7174 (middle right), and NGC 7176 (lower right)—are part of Hickson Compact Group 90, named after astronomer Paul Hickson, who first
catalogued these small clusters of galaxies in the 1980s. NGC 7173 and NGC 7176 appear to be smooth, normal elliptical galaxies without much gas and dust.
In stark contrast, NGC 7174 is a mangled spiral galaxy that appears as though it is being ripped apart by its close
neighbours. The galaxies are experiencing a strong gravitational interaction, and as a result, a significant number of stars have been ripped away from their home galaxies. These stars are now spread out, forming a tenuous luminous component in the galaxy group.
Ultimately, astronomers believe that NGC 7174 will be shredded and only the two "normal" elliptical galaxies (NGC 7173 and NGC 7176) will remain.
Hubble imaged these galaxies with the Advanced Camera for Surveys in May 2006.
For additional information, contact:
Hubble/ESA, Garching, Germany
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
Object Names: Hickson Compact Group 90, HCG 90, M59
Image Type: Astronomical/Illustration
ESA, and R. Sharples (University of Durham)