This week’s picture of Hubble Space Telescope shows two of a set of three interacting galaxies called Arp 248. This group, also known as Wild’s Triplet, consists of three small spiral galaxies that are linked together by bridges of stars.
Located 200 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo, the trio are named after Australian astronomer Paul Wild, who was a noted solar researcher and who studied the group in the 1950s.
Interacting galaxies are those whose gravitational fields affect each other, and in this case the gravity binding all three has resulted in bright bridges stretching between two of the galaxies in this image. The bridge shines with starlight and contains dust and stars, forming an elongated region called a tidal tail that is created by the attraction of galaxies to each other.
Hubble has shared a number of images of interacting galaxies recently, including two other interacting spiral galaxies whose gravitational effects on each other are more subtle, as well as a pair of galaxies that appear to be interacting, but are actually just overlapping as one is closer to us than the other. The full drama of merging galaxies can be seen in a stunning image from the Gemini North Telescope in a recent James Webb image showing the glowing effects of a merger in the infrared range.