Today’s Image of the Day from the European Space Agency features Arp 282, an interacting galaxy pair with the Seyfert galaxy NGC 169 on the bottom and the galaxy IC 1559 on the top. In the image, the two galaxies are visibly linked by streams of matter produced by tidal forces.
ESA says that both of the galaxies comprising Arp 282 have monumentally energetic cores, known as active galactic nuclei (AGN), although it is difficult to tell that from this image. The experts report that if the full emission of two AGNs was visible in this image, the detailed tidal interactions occurring between NGC 169 and IC 1559 would likely not be visible in the photograph.
The gravity of a space object can distort or stretch another object, which is known as tidal forces. These forces are directed away from the lower-mass object and toward the higher mass object.
ESA explains that when two galaxies interact, gas, dust and even entire solar systems will be drawn away from one galaxy towards the other by tidal forces.
“It is now widely accepted amongst astronomers that an important aspect of how galaxies evolve is the way they interact with one another,” says ESA.
“Galaxies can merge, collide, or brush past one another – each of which has a significant impact on their shapes and structures. As common as these interactions are thought to be in the Universe, it is rare to capture an image of two galaxies interacting in such a visibly dynamic way.”
The image was captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
Image Credit: ESA