Image Credit:Dima Zel/Shutterstock

The Hubble Space Telescope captured an image of a unique group of merging galaxies.

Hubble officials said in a statement that the five galaxies, known as the HCG (Hickson Compact Group) 40, are merging into a single entity. This process will be complete roughly a billion years from now. The officials released the image in anticipation of the venerable telescope’s 32nd anniversary, which occurs on April 24, Sunday.

“Studying nearby groups like HCG 40 helps astronomers learn about how galaxies formed,” the Hubble team said. “Tight groups like this,” Hubble officials added of HGC 40, “may have been more common in the early universe when their superheated, infalling material may have fueled very energetic black holes called quasars.”

The group, located some 300,000,000 light-years away from Earth, is very tightly packed into a region of space less than twice the diameter of the stellar disk of the Milky Way.

Although scientists have found more than 100 compact galaxy groups, according to the Hubble team, the configuration of the Hickson Compact Group is unique as the galaxies are not part of a larger galaxy cluster, making them an interesting target for astronomers to study.

“One possible explanation is that there’s a lot of dark matter — an unknown and invisible form of matter — associated with these galaxies,” Hubble officials wrote. “If they come close together, then the dark matter can form a big cloud within which the galaxies are orbiting. As the galaxies plow through the dark matter, they feel a resistive force due to its gravitational effects. This slows their motion and makes the galaxies lose energy, so they fall together.”

On April 24, 1330, The Hubble Space Telescope launched on the space shuttle Discovery.

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Alice is the Chief Editor with relevant experience of three years, Alice has founded Galaxy Reporters. She has a keen interest in the field of science. She is the pillar behind the in-depth coverages of Science news. She has written several papers and high-level documentation.

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