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An encounter between these two spiral galaxies, called Arp 273, has created twisted shapes, stretched spiral arms, and regions of intense star formation. The pair is among hundreds of "peculiar" galaxies catalogued by astronomer Halton Arp in the 1960s. The gravitational attraction between them has created their physical distortions.
The larger galaxy has been distorted into the shape of a rose by the gravitational pull of the smaller companion galaxy. Along the stretched spiral arms are clusters of hot, young, blue stars. A flurry of star formation also can be seen in the core of the companion galaxy.
Like the galaxies of Arp 273, most galaxies do not live in isolation. Their encounters with each other are an influential part of the growing-up process for galaxies. By observing how galaxies are affected by their gravitational exchanges, astronomers can better understand how galaxies developed and how the universe evolved.
Arp 273 lies about 350 million light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. This image celebrates the 21st anniversary of Hubble's launch and deployment into orbit around Earth. Learn more at HubbleSite's NewsCenter.