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Galactic wreckage in Stephan’s Quintet
HST image of Stephan's Quintet

NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

Identifying the members of the quintet

Map identifying the galaxies in Stephan's Quintet

A clash among members of a famous galaxy quintet reveals an assortment of stars across a wide color range, from young, blue stars to aging, red stars.

This portrait of Stephan’s Quintet was taken by the new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) aboard NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Stephan’s Quintet, as the name implies, is a group of five galaxies. The name, however, is a bit of a misnomer. Studies have shown that the group member at upper left is actually a foreground galaxy about seven times closer to Earth than the rest of the group.

Three of the galaxies have distorted shapes, elongated spiral arms, and long, gaseous tidal tails containing many star clusters, proof of their close encounters. These interactions have sparked a frenzy of star birth in the central pair of galaxies. This drama is being played out against a rich backdrop of faraway galaxies.

The fifth galaxy at bottom left, is a normal-looking elliptical galaxy that is less affected by the interactions.

These Hubble observations are part of the Hubble Servicing Mission 4 Early Release Observations. NASA astronauts installed the WFC3 camera during a servicing mission in May to upgrade and repair the 19-year-old Hubble telescope.