5 Mar 2009

Space telescope views galaxies locked in tug-of-war

3:28 pm on 5 March 2009

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured three galaxies locked in a gravitational tug-of-war that could tear one of them apart.

The galaxies are in the Piscis Austrinus or Southern Fish constellation, about 100 million light-years from Earth.

The president of the Australian Astronomical Society, Professor Warrick Couch, says the tug-of-war depicts a common process of merging through gravity, causing galaxies to cannibalise each other and get bigger.

He says the two bigger elliptical galaxies will eventually gobble up the more fragile spiral galaxy - forming two super-galaxies.

Professor Couch says this process usually takes about 100 million years - meaning the new super galaxies would probably have formed by now.