LYNETTE COOK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY LYNETTE COOK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Interacting galaxies. Artist's impression of three spiral galaxies colliding with each other. The spiral arms of the galaxies have been greatly extended by the gravitational pull of their neighbours. Interactions occur when two or more galaxies pass close to each other. The galaxies will merge if the gravitational forces between them can overcome their momentum. Even if the galaxies do not capture each other, their shapes can be left permanently distorted by their interactions. The shape of some galaxies which are isolated today suggests that they have been involved in interactions in the past.
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