Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
This cosmic zoological find—known as Arp 142—is in reality the blue spiral galaxy, NGC 2936, twisted by the gravitational pull of the smaller elliptical galaxy NGC 2937 below it.
Hubble has been able to capture exquisite details within the tortured “penguin” galaxy. Its bright core, representing the “eye” of this celestial bird in the above image, is filled with millions of stars huddled together. The red streak slashing across the penguin’s face just above its eye is the warped remains of what was once a spiral arm.
Meanwhile, the bird’s celestial body is composed of the pinwheeling spiral arms of former galaxies which now only show up as bright, feathery blue and red streaks stretching out for thousands of light years.
The galactic pair is 400 million light-years away from Earth in the southern constellation Hydra. They are in the midst of a slow motion collision—violently exchanging material while disrupting their original structures.
Look closely at the image and many tiny, elongated red and blue smudges in the background—which look like pesky flies—are in reality much more distant galaxies.