Despite the advent of the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble continues to provide spectacular images of the cosmos. A Hubble picture of Arp-Madore 417-391, a peculiar galaxy collision around 670 million light-years distant, has been published by NASA and the ESA. Their gravitational tug-of-war has resulted in an unusual ring-like configuration, with the two galactic centres relatively close together and the star “plumes” forming a circle.
The merger was seen by the telescope’s long-serving Advanced Camera for Surveys, which has previously helped find unusual galaxies and even dark matter. The orbiting gear is being used by researchers to compile a list of follow-up observations for the much newer James Webb telescope, which has occasionally been used in combination with Hubble to examine space objects.
Hubble may not be leading these discoveries for much longer. The telescope has experienced a number of system problems in recent years and is likely to crash down on Earth as soon as 2030 if no action is taken. While NASA and SpaceX are considering increasing Hubble’s orbit to keep it operational, such an extension is not assured. Even though the observatory has years left in orbit, this galaxy collapse might be one of its final hurrahs.