Two interacting galaxies, both with active supermassive black holes at their center

Interacting galaxies
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and released today. From the caption:

This new image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows interacting galaxies known as AM 1214-255. These galaxies contain active galactic nuclei, or AGNs. An AGN is an extraordinarily luminous central region of a galaxy. Its extreme brightness is caused by matter whirling into a supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s heart.

Hubble observed the galaxy [on the right] as part of an AGN survey, with the aim of compiling a dataset about nearby AGNs to be used as a resource for astronomers investigating AGN physics, black holes, host galaxy structure, and more.

Note how the outer arms of both galaxies appear warped, with long streams of stars being pulled towards the other galaxy. Imagine living on a planet orbiting one of those stars as it finds itself over time farther and farther from its home galaxy, out in the vast emptiness of intergalactic space. While this sounds lonely, it has advantages for life, because isolated from the galaxy the star will not be threatened by supernovae, gamma ray bursts, and the host of other events that happen inside galaxies that can threaten biology.

It also means your night sky will be heralded by the rising and setting of two nearby giant galaxies.