NASA discovers a face staring back at us using Hubble

NASA astronomers were using the Hubble Space Telescope to look deep into space, and with it, they found a pair of galaxies that are colliding and look a bit like a face with two glowing eyes staring back at them. The scientists say the image shows a head-on collision between two galaxies.

Each of the eyes in the image are bright galaxy cores that have crashed into each other. The outline of the face is a ring of young, blue stars. Additional clumps of stars form the nose and mouth in the image. The system is cataloged as Arp-Madore 2026-424.

Galaxy collisions are frequent, particularly in the young universe, but most of the collisions aren't head-on as this one is. The violent collision gives the system a ring structure that NASA says lasts for a "short" period of about 100 million years. The collision pulled and stretched the galaxies' disks of gas and dust outward.

That action formed the ring of intense star formation that shapes the nose and face. For the two eyes of the image to be nearly equal in size, the two galaxies that collided were of nearly equal proportions. The colliding system was discovered on what NASA terms its "snapshot" program.

The snapshot program takes advantage of occasional gaps in the observing schedule to take additional images. Scientists plan to use the program to take a closer look at other unusual interacting galaxies in the future. Hubble will choose prime targets that will be followed up on using the James Webb Space Telescope in 2021.