Angel wings: Hubble captures two colliding galaxies that deserve the name

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The Hubble Space Telescope captured these galactic wings.

Photo: ESA/Hubble & NASA, W. Keel / Courtesy

Two galaxies merging in the VV689 system, called Angel Wings, are featured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope..

In this image, the focus is placed on the system itself, allowing a closer look at its unique shape.

The beautiful new image from the Hubble Space Telescope captured a pair of “fluttering wings”, produced by the ongoing collision between two distant galaxies.

The Galactic Wings are part of the VV689 system, nicknamed Angel Wings, which can be found in the night sky in the constellation of Leo, according to a statement from the European Space Agency (ESA).

The distinctive winglike appearance is the product of a catastrophic collision between two galaxies that have been merging for billions of years.

It’s a rare chance to capture such an image, unlike chance alignments of galaxies that just seem to overlap one another, from our vantage point on Earth.

Galactic interaction has left the VV689 system almost completely symmetrical, giving the impression of a vast array of galactic wings.

The angelic image comes from a set of Hubble observations that were the subject of more detailed reviews of the so-called “Jewel in the Zoo,” interesting galaxies from the Galaxy Zoo citizen science project.

This collaborative program relies on hundreds of thousands of volunteers classifying galaxies and help astronomers navigate through a flood of data from robotic telescopes. In the process, the volunteers discovered a gallery of weird and wonderful galaxy types, some not previously studied.

A similar project called Radio Galaxy Zoo: LOFAR is using the same crowdsourcing approach to locate supermassive black holes in distant galaxies.

Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys took detailed follow-up observations of notable objects from both projects.

In keeping with the collaborative nature of Galaxy Zoo, the public cast 18,000 votes to choose targets for Hubble’s follow-up observations. Selected targets include ring galaxies, unusual spirals, and a surprising selection of galaxy mergers like VV-689.

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