Astronomers have spotted a rarity in space: two previously known galaxies merging with a newly discovered third galaxy of roughly the same size. Together they form what the astronomers have dubbed “The Bird.” (Some also see a resemblance to Tinker Bell.)
The astronomers photographed the galaxies using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope. One of the telescope’s instruments is able to peer through dust clouds surrounding the colliding galaxies, using adaptive optics to get a clear look.
Two of the galaxies met a couple of hundred million years ago, astronomers estimate. But the third galaxy, which forms the bird’s “head,” is a new arrival and is already moving away from the others at about 850,000 miles per hour.—Dawn Stover